Nurturing a “Hacker Kid”

  • Curiosity is an essential quality in infosec professionals who must keep up with ever-evolving security threats.

  • The r00tz Asylum program connects technology mentors and curious kids for hand-on exploration of security challenges and solutions.

I love working in information security. I want my kids to have the opportunity to get into this field if they so choose. The problem is that safely maturing into infosec is not easy.

If a “hacker kid” wants to learn how to protect networks and servers, he/she has to first understand how to attack them. That puts them at risk of accidentally bringing down systems and networks. Today’s legal system is far less forgiving of hacker experimentation than when I was growing up.

Young hackers need guidance on how to safely explore infosec tools without inadvertently crossing the line. Young hackers likely know more about computers than their parents do, and this can create problems right from the start. Can parents, who don’t understand how the Internet works, provide the appropriate guidance about online exploration? These kids may be thinking about port scanning networks and more, but most parents are only prepared to talk to their kids about Facebook privacy settings. This is a pretty big gap.

If we don’t provide opportunities for young hackers, our industry will lose some incredible minds.

r00tz Asylum is a 3 day event for kids interested in becoming “white-hat” hackers. It helps provide them with the guidance they need to safely learn about network and computer security. AT&T has supported this program since its inception, and as an infosec professional and a parent, I am especially proud of our commitment.

At previous r00tz events, I have seen 10-year-olds learn soldering, programming, network exploration and more. More than cool tricks, kids simply need room to make mistakes, and they need mentors who can help them understand responsible behavior in the hacking community.

The kids at r00tz are special.  They’re not the only ones learning- I’ve learned a lot from them. They bring their own unique perspective to us “old timers.” For example, some kids view the Internet exclusively through the lens of “apps,” so while I may constantly be thinking of the Internet in terms of client/server concepts, this focus on the app as the Internet portal to Internet information is interesting.

And lastly, a quick thank you to TechnoBuffalo for giving us a platform to talk about our support of r00tz Asylum at the very beginning.

Patrick McCanna Technical Staff Lead Member AT&T About Patrick