The recent Equifax security breach, which affected essentially every other person in the US, is just the latest example of our vulnerability in the face of cybercriminals–and further proof that we need to teach kids as early as possible that they can make good living as hackers.
I’m not talking about the hackers in movies or TV shows who rob online banks or crash the stock market for fun; those aren’t hackers–they’re criminals. Think instead of hackers who understand computer systems so deeply, they can spot bugs before the bad guys do, and fix them.
Hacking in School
Full disclosure: I’m a hacker. I’m also a fourth-year computer science major at Carnegie Mellon University. I’m here because my county school system gave me the chance to learn computer science in middle and high school and introduced me to hacking through online computer security contests.
The gold standard of these beginner’s hacking contests was picoCTF, a video game geared towards teaching high school kids real-world computer security skills in the form of with a storyline. I found that picoCTF gave a fun twist to learning new hacking techniques and reinforced my knowledge and interest in hacking.
Teaching kids how to hack has long been a controversial issue. But the truth is we’re never going to be safe from criminal hackers if we don’t start training people how to hack. Teaching defensive hacking where the “defense” desperately tries to ensure there are no holes in a system just won’t cut it. An attacker needs just one opening to be successful. In this case, the best defense is a good offense.