SAN FRANCISCO – When it comes to the future development of secure software, there’s really only one “next generation” that matters.
That’s why today when the covers were pulled back on a seven-foot-tall server rack wheeled out on stage during Chris Hoff’s RSA Conference keynote, those in the audience expecting a Juniper Networks product pitch got instead a glimpse what lies ahead for IT security and privacy – a 9 year old boy.
Reuben Paul, who has gained some notoriety for his programming skills, talks at security conferences such as Derby Con and the (ISC)2 Congress, and that he’s CEO of an education and gaming company called Prudent Games, joined Hoff for part of his talk and a live hacking demonstration.
The point, however, wasn’t just to demonstrate what a determined, brilliant little boy could achieve, but to put out a call to action to the security community to foster and nurture other Reuben Pauls.
“I want to encourage people to volunteer times at schools, fairs, churches, wherever. I want us as security professions to raise awareness and start kids thinking about security more holistically,” Hoff said. “So that when they create games and apps and become the next generation of entrepreneurs, security is not an afterthought. We’ve got to focue on this real next generation, not just on products. We’ve got to do more than teach them online safety, but to learn cognitive hacking skills, think about threat models, and fix things, not just break things.”
This isn’t Hoff’s first foray into exposing youngsters to programming and hacking; he’s been on the ground floor of the HacKid and R00tz (the former Def Con Kids) conferences and through Juniper has grown a relationship with Code.org, another non-profit dedicated to bringing computer science and STEM courses to schools. A grant provided by Juniper to Code.org will help create new computer science curricula and advanced placement network security courses in high schools.
“It’s a call to action and a challenge to our industry to do the same,” Hoff said.
The RSA Conference features for the first time this year a Cyber Safety Village that will include educational programs for kids on safe and responsible use of the Internet with security professionals from a number of organizations, including HacKid, the Tech Museum of Innovation of San Jose, StaySafeOnline.org, HackerHighSchool, (ISC)2 and CyberPatriot, volunteering.
As for Reuben Paul, Hoff says the industry can hold him as an example of a success story, one of many youngsters who don’t have negative pre-conceived notions about hacking. Instead, they view it as a means of achieving a goal and a means of solving problems, whether it’s a better way of leveling up in Minecraft, or making use of game theory and engineering to game a system in a positive, innovative way.
“Kids have the capacity to grasp complex topics today in ways that blow my mind. They understand more about the operation of how stuff works than we give them credit for,” Hoff said, who along with Paul will do a live hacking demo on stage during the keynote. “Reuben is a brilliant kid; he’s interesting, talented, articulate, funny. And the punctuation of that is if a 9-year-old can do this, imagine what someone two or three times his age with access to more money and time could do. If we don’t start building security in and train folks coming up in grammar school, junior highs and high schools, we’re sort of doomed.”