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Defcon ‘Kids Village’ guides hackers of the future

Defcon, one of the world’s premier annual hacking conferences, has introduced a “Kids Village” aimed at improving the hacking skills of children as young as nine.

The Kids Village makes use of experts in the industry such as renowned security consultant and author, Chris Hadnagy. He said that in a world where children are surrounded by technology, guidance must be given to them so that they can legally and safely test their hacking skills. Nine-year old Anna and her brother, 10-year old Jake, for instance, together built a robot which can paint on small spherical objects such as small balls and eggs.

The village programme also included the introduction of various games for the children which were tied to the teaching of basic hacking premises. Hadnagy introduced a “Capture the Flag” game which showed children how to pick locks, persuade information out of others and how to read facial expressions. Another contest dubbed “Social Engineering” was won by a child who combined a remote control helicopter with a night-vision lens.

The Kids Village has unearthed a number of true innovators in cyber-security were found, such as a girl who went by the name of CyFi who discovered a vulnerability in a farming game designed to run on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. Her hack allowed her to make changes to the in-game timer. This discovery was then shared with the software makers as a new class of vulnerability.

Jeff Moss, the founder of Defcon and the Black Hat security briefings, is now part of the White House homeland defence council and believes that the hackers of today should assist the hackers of tomorrow. With organisations such as Lulzsec and Anonymous revealing how easy it is to hack the world, these child hackers will hopefully use their skills for the betterment of online security.

The Kids Village shows a continuing turn around in the attitudes toward certain sections of the hacker community by the corporate world.

In the world of adult hackers, the rewards are substantially larger, including cash prizes for rooting out security issues. Conferences like Defcon and BlackHat have become renowned for such competitions as well as for revealing the flaws in a number of high-tech security products.–AFP with additional staff reporting.