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A reminder of why HacKid was such a great idea

Feb 12, 20133 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Every once in a while, you have no choice but to drag your kids to a business event. We may as well train them to participate.

I’m thinking a lot about HacKid this morning.

It’s partly because of the post I wrote yesterday on 11-year-old malware coders. And it’s partly because I had to lug my two sons, ages 9 and 11, to a security vendor briefing.

School was called off in the aftermath of this weekend’s New England blizzard, and I decided to work from home, since the roads were still too dicey to make the hour’s drive to the office. I remembered I had scheduled a briefing with a security vendor, and got them to come to my neighborhood Starbucks instead of the office. As it turned out, my wife had a meeting as well. So I decided to bite the bullet and take the kids with me. It all worked out. The kids played chess while I sat through the briefing.

That reminded me of how HacKid got started a few years ago. Juniper’s Chris Hoff got the idea from his children’s adventures at SOURCE Boston 2010. He said at the time:

“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 was 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

The event was a huge success, and similar events have sprung from it, most notably Defcon Kids. It hasn’t been all roses, as the following update on the HacKid website demonstrates:

“Unfortunately due to issues beyond our control, the third venue we had secured (the other two fell out) for HacKid in March 2013 also is now not viable. Given the flux related to venues, our major benefactor/sponsor was forced to withdraw funding. This means that our ability to host the conference in March is not possible. Instead, we are going to take the resources and equipment and invest in continuing to support our sister organization, Defcon Kids, in August in Las Vegas instead.”

That’s a serious bummer. But in the bigger picture, I think Hoff and others have started a movement that’s going to endure. Defcon Kids is already proof of that.

The more of these events our kids have access to, the better the chance they’ll use their coding talents for good instead of evil.