Story by Sara Sorcher and photos and videos by Ann Hermes.To see the project in its original form, visit projects.csmonitor.com/hackerkids
Kids born after the year 2000 have never lived a day without the internet. Everything in their lives is captured in silicon chips and chronicled on Facebook. Algorithms track how quickly they complete their homework; their text message confessions and #selfies are whisked to the cloud.
Yet the massive digital ecosystem they inherited is fragile, broken, and unsafe. Built without security in mind, it’s constructed on faulty code: From major companies such as Yahoo to the US government, breaches of highly sensitive or personal files have become commonplace. The insecurity of the internet is injecting itself into presidential politics ahead of the November election. In the not too distant future, digital attacks may set off the next war.
As they brace for an even more connected future, there’s a growing community of kids dedicated to fighting off the threat of cyberattacks.
The Christian Science Monitor’s Passcode traveled across the country to meet 15 of these rising stars who are under 15 years old. They are part of a new generation of tinkerers and boundary pushers – many still lugging school backpacks and wearing braces – who are mastering the numerical codes that underpin the digital world. But they aren’t trying to break the internet. They’re trying to put it together more securely.
They are hunting software bugs, protecting school networks, and helping to safeguard electrical grids. They are entrepreneurs and community organizers bringing kids together to hack ethically. Unlike previous generations of hackers who were considered outlaws and deviants, these kids are now accepted by society and encouraged by adults.
After all, adults who laid the internet’s insecure foundation, have so far been unable to patch the security holes or stem the tide of cybercrime.
“There are smart, serious people thinking long and…