Formerly known as Def Con Kids, “r00tz” features keynote speakers and how-to workshops about encryption, lock picking, and finding software exploits. These young hackers will either inspire or scare you, depending on your relationship with technology.
2. Alex, 11, wants to be a Formula One driver — she does go-karting — but her dad wants her to be a hacker just like him.
“I’m going to tell [my friends] all about [Def Con] because I’m going to high school when I get home,” she says. (Did we mention she’s 11?) Her favorite part of Def Con is the soldering. “I like the light and the fiddly bits,” she says. “This one took me two hours and a half. I did this on my own.”
3. Last winter, Brendan, 11, hacked into his mom’s Amazon account to find out what his stocking stuffers were going to be.
He’s also started a Minecraft server. “This tinfoil hat is supposed to protect me from aliens,” he explains. Richard Thieme gave the kids a presentation about “what is true and what isn’t in ufology,” as Brendan explains. “It may not be true, but I think there is extraterrestrial life.”
4. Rosie M., 10, can’t wait to try out her new lock-picking skills on doors back home in Silicon Valley.
“The parties at night are crazy, crazy, crazy,” she says. But, no, she didn’t dance. “I was staring at my dad, going, ‘Can we go home now?’”
5. Andrew, 9, got this awesome Mohawk to help raise money for the EFF.
He says he likes that EFF is helping people. His favorite part of Def Con is walking around helping other kids with their snap circuits. Adults’ biggest mistake? “They think the internet is stupid just because you can be hacked,” he says. “Just make sure your computer is protected.”
6. Shane, 11, says most of his friends don’t even know what a hacker is.
The craziest thing he saw this year were the adults doing the scavenger hunt. “A guy was chasing after a kid, yelling, ‘I need to take a photo of your Mohawk with my boots!’” laughs Shane.
7. Schuyler, 13, hacked his HP Wi-Fi printer to play Pong.
He also used Arduino to make a motion-sensor alarm to prank his dad and is known for his 3D printer hacking. His school’s computer classes don’t challenge him, but it’s different at Def Con. “They know we are the future, so they are helping us and teaching us all this new information,” he says.
8. Karma, 14, says now she’ll be able to help her mom, who is constantly locking her keys in her car.
“I didn’t know how good I was at picking locks,” she says. “I got it at the first try.” In fact, she got to the top level twice that day.
9. CyFi, 12, founded Def Con Kids after announcing a security bug at Def Con 19.
“My mom always worked for Def Con and BlackHat, and then I just found the Time Traveler bug and it sucked me in,” she says.
Her advice for adults sounds like a lot of adults’ advice for kids: “Where should I start! Facebook, and then all those kinds of stuff, where they just put their information out there for free.”
10. AmZed got into hacking by tagging along to the hackerspace her dad founded.
Her advice to others kids is “to get smarter, but outside of school. Get involved in other stuff.” She doesn’t think schools should teach hacking. “You don’t know what kids are going to do and say with it.” But don’t worry, she says: She is trustworthy.
11. Mia, 8, is a huge “Harlem Shake” fan.
She was excited to see a guy at Def Con in a horse head like in the videos. And yes, she, her brother (Brendan), dad, family dog, and friends made their own. She can also pick five-piece locks.
12. Cryptina can pick zip-ties, handcuffs, and six-pin locks. This is her fourth Def Con.
“My dad told me about [Def Con], that it was this hacker thing, and I was into hardware hacking and PGP, and so I went, ‘Yeah!’” she says. She identifies as a white hat hacker, and says, “The internet is controlled by the government.”