Security starts with your children, so get to HacKid con!

This weekend is the HacKid conference in Cambridge, Mass. Bill Brenner on why you MUST take your children there.

The Boston Area HacKid Conference is this weekend -- Oct. 9 and 10 in Cambridge, Mass. It's the first event of its kind, and, appropriately, coincides with National CyberSecurity Awareness Month.

Parents who took their kids to the Lego fest a couple weekends ago might be leery to rush out to yet another Boston event. More than 9,000 people crammed the Lego event and most of my friends who took their children regretted it. It's no fun for a kid to stand in 30-minute lines just to stack a few Legos.

But HacKid will be smaller and more neighborly -- by design.

I'm heartbroken because I can't take my kids. There's another event I have to be at. But if you live in the Boston area and have the time, you owe it to your kids and your profession to take them.

Here's the history behind HacKid con:

Last April's SOURCE Boston and Security B-Sides conferences coincided with school vacation, which put many of us parents in a bind. Fortunately, the security community is very kid-friendly, and nobody seemed to mind when I brought Sean and Duncan to B-Sides. In fact, I think the hackers enjoyed having them around.

At that particular B-Sides event, one of the first speakers was Joseph Sokoly, 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:

  • Staying Safe Online
  • Dealing with CyberBullies
  • Online gaming safety
  • Building Medieval Trebuchets
  • Interactive robot building
  • How the Internet works
  • Food Hacking
  • Hair Hacking
  • Lego Derby racing
  • Manipulating hardware and software for fun
  • Meeting & interacting with law enforcement
  • Low-impact martial arts/self-defense & anti-bullying techniques
  • Creating a podcast
  • Building a Makerbot robot that builds 3D parts
  • Learning to program in Kodu & Scratch
  • and much more!

We in the security industry are always talking about the importance of awareness and educating people to think of their safety when going online. This kind of event will get the next generation thinking about security early on, and without the fear tactics we often see in the industry.

So again, if you are in the Boston area this weekend, take the kids. You'll be glad you did.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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