Redirect black hat energy to white hat activities.

06.06.2019 by

In the summer of 2016, I broke two bones in my foot walking on the cobbled streets of Liverpool. That would be hardly worth the mention if it weren’t for the fact that I was on my way to give a TEDx talk on the topic of children and hacking. I briefly thought of cancelling, but then decided I’d rather hobble on the stage in pain than miss out on this opportunity. Almost three years on, I still get messages from all kinds of people thanking me for this talk and how it inspired them.

Why? Because I approached a subject that doesn’t get talked about:

We shouldn’t punish young adults for hacking they did when they were teenagers.  

Some kids who get into hacking aren’t the most social to begin with. Add into it the lack of awareness that they’re about to do something illegal. Hacking into a system doesn’t require the same criminal energy as does, say, smashing a window to get into a house. It’s just a few lines of code or a click on a button after all. 

What happens when we punish socially awkward teenagers who hacked into a company’s computer system once they grow into adults? We put them on an express train to a life of criminality. They’ll have a harder time finding work, become more ostracised, setting off a negative spiral.

How about if we channelled this talent and energy into a good cause instead?

This mission lies at the heart of Hacker House. This is why we do what we do, and getting this message out was definitely worth giving a talk in pain, pivoting on one leg, trying not to put weight on my broken foot. The feedback that continues to this day was definitely worth it and I’m so grateful that the message has reached a large audience and still resonates.

And so I have a favour to ask you: If you are interested in cyber and information security, educate kids in your life:

  • Raise their awareness that some things online, although they are easy to do, are wrong. Hacking into someone’s VPN is as wrong as smashing a window with a brick.
  • Teach them about cyber security and hacking threats. 
  • Compliment them on their talent and effort in this area and talk to them about careers in information security.
  • Encourage team sports and develop social skills through CTF and hackathons.

You might change someone’s life for the better and channel their energy from black hat to white hat activities. You can watch my TEDx talk below!

Happy Hacking from Jennifer!