The HacKid Conference: A kid-friendly idea whose time has come

CSO Senior Editor Bill Brenner is a dad, which is why he appreciates Chris Hoff's HacKid Conference concept.

I go to a lot of security conferences, almost always without my family in tow. The logistics and money involved with trekking them from one part of the country to the next is usually beyond my resources. But when a conference is local and there's something in it for the kids, I'm in 100 percent.

Last month's SOURCE Boston and Security B-Sides conferences coincided with school vacation, which put me in a bind. Fortunately, the security community is very kid-friendly, and nobody minded when I brought Sean and Duncan to B-Sides. In fact, I think the hackers enjoyed their antics.

At B-Sides one of the first speakers was a young security practitioner talking about the challenges of people his age breaking into the industry and finding the right combination of employment and respect. While I was getting inspired to write "How young upstarts can get their big security break in 6 steps" during that talk, Cisco cloud security guru Chris Hoff was getting a blast of inspiration from his children's adventures at SOURCE a couple days before. The result is a concept any security practitioner-parent should embrace.

On the HacKid Conference website, Hoff explains the idea:

"The gist of the idea for HacKid (sounds like 'hacked,' get it) came about when I took my three daughters aged 6, 9 and 14 along with me to the Source Security conference in Boston. It was fantastic to have them engage with my friends, colleagues and audience members as well as ask all sorts of interesting questions regarding the conference. It was especially gratifying to have them in the audience when I spoke twice. There were times the iPad I gave them was more interesting, however."

The idea is to provide an interactive, hands-on experience for kids and their parents which includes things like:

  • Low-impact martial arts/self-defense training
  • Online safety (kids and parents!)
  • How to deal with CyberBullies
  • Gaming competitions
  • Introduction to Programming
  • Basic to advanced network/application security
  • Hacking hardware and software for fun
  • Build a netbook
  • Make a podcast/vodcast
  • Lockpicking
  • Interactive robot building (Lego Mindstorms?)
  • Organic snacks and lunches
  • Website design/introduction to blogging
  • Meet law enforcement
  • Meet real security researchers

"If you have additional ideas for cool things to do, let us know via @HacKidCon (Twitter) or better yet, a href="">PLEASE go to the Wiki and contribute there! This could be organized over a long weekend during a standard or extended school holiday."

Hoff said he's already getting companies inquiring about sponsorship and individuals offering a ton of ideas and volunteering to help.

A lot of serious work goes on at these conferences, and the idea isn't to turn every event into Disney Land (though that wouldn't bother me one bit). But parents are always looking for fun opportunities for their children to expand their horizons.

To that end, this idea is a no-brainer.

Sign me (and Sean and Duncan) up.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 hot cybersecurity trends (and 2 going cold)