DEFCON Kids – Preparing Us for Our Future in the Digital Domain

Wolfgang Kandek

Last updated on: September 7, 2020

Last weekend was the first annual DEFCON Kids. When I first heard about DEFCON Kids as a way to make kids a part of DEFCON, I thought it was a great idea to prepare future generations for the world of hacking and security, and signed up for my 14 year old son to attend. I was impressed with the event, and it was a great opportunity to interact with my son and other participants.

On Saturday he was in the Social Engineering Capture The Flag (CTF) contest where he was teamed up with another 10 year old participant and had to solve a six-step scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt involved decryption of secret messages, collection of information from multiple people on the DEFCON show floor, and a good dose of critical thinking. 

On Sunday he participated in the classroom sessions. His favorites were "When you can remember your locker Combination" by Deviant and "Coding in Scratch" by Chris Hoff.
As a parent I loved seeing the interest sparked in my son by the challenges and class interactions. All instructors were extremely competent and focused on the benefits of gaining a real understanding of the technologies involved, and when appropriate, they discussed the moral and ethical questions involved (i.e. lock picking and social engineering). 
As a security professional, I see every day how the lack of security knowledge is impacting the computer industry and society in general. I believe initiatives like DEFCON Kids are essential in preparing the next generation for a life in the digital domain.

As a side note: Everybody my son met at DEFCON during the challenges was enthusiastic in helping, and their eyes lit up when their assistance was requested in locating somebody or a certain room. While the Kids were solving their crypto challenges, I was approached by numerous participants that were wondering what was going on and the most common comment was: "Awesome, I will bring my kid next year." I hope to spread awareness of this excellent event and look forward to future events.

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