Modern field guide to security and privacy

Video: So you want to be a hacker? Advice from the kids of DEF CON

Passcode caught up with some of the kids at r00tz Asylum to get their advice: What's the first step other kids – or anyone, really – should take if they want to be a hacker? 

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
Emily Skinner practices soldering at r00tz Asylum, a program for kids at DEF CON, one of the world's largest hacker conventions.

They picked locks and ripped apart laptops and other electronic gadgets to explore what's inside. They attacked circuit boards with soldering irons. And they tried to hack Minecraft. 

These are hacker kids. From 8 to 16 years old, they gather at r00tz Asylum, held at the DEF CON hacker conference in Las Vegas, to learn about cybersecurity from professionals and their peers. 

R00tz Asylum lets kids "have a safe playground and an area for them to learn the basics of hacking, without getting themselves into trouble," says its cofounder, the 15-year-old hacker who goes by the name CyFi. 

Like many adults who attend DEF CON, these kids also come with their own research – and hacks – to show off during the Vegas conference. 

Evan Robertson, 10, for instance, demonstrated how his "elite social engineering skills" tricked dozens of people to connect to a WiFi hotspot and agree to terms of conditions that he says "no one in the world should agree to." 

His point: People don't care enough about their online privacy.

Mollee McDuff, 13, who goes by the hacker handle Stitch, presented ways to modify Minecraft to give her more resources in the virtual worlds she creates. "The possibilities are endless with programming." 

So Passcode wanted to know: What's the first step that kids – or anyone, really – should take if they want to be a hacker? Here's what the kids of r00tz had to say. 

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