Yes, you are reading that title correctly, an 11-year-old entered a cybersecurity hacking contest and completed his way through multilevel security challenges ending up as one of the top three finishers. The 11-year-old boy was a contest winner for a hacking game at WordCamp Atlanta. Wordfence, a WordPress security company, was at the WordCamp and decided to not do things as usual. The results were not typical, either!
Wordfence posted the details on their blog.
The Wordfence team recently sponsored and attended WordCamp Atlanta. Instead of doing the usual boring corporate thing with our booth, we decided to host a capture the flag, or CTF contest. A CTF is essentially a hacking contest. It is a series of puzzles that the contestant needs to solve. They might include decrypting an encrypted piece of text, performing a challenge involving a browser and website, or hacking into something we set up. -Mark Maudner, May 3, 2018, Wordfence.com
Wordfence provided an experiential learning event that many of the conference attendees participated. I like to figure things out and make things work from what appears not to be possible. I must admit, though, that working my way through puzzles is not one of my fortes. The ability to mentally decrypt, figure out problems, and the like is a skill that I admire. (Read more about being hacked.)
When I worked in Texas, I had two teenagers that created viruses for their computer science class projects. They considered the outcomes funny and even a bit thrilling. The guys told me regularly that they would like the opportunity to use my workstation to see if they could hack their way into the organization’s network. Fortunately, our computer gurus had thought about that possibility. I had a boot-up password that allowed the computer to start. I then had a computer password needed to access any of the computer’s applications and files. The last security was another password to gain access to the network for the database. Each one of the passwords had to be unique. Even years ago, computer and cyber security was a must. Imagine how much so, today, that cybersecurity hacking is something that we consider daily. (Examples of what happens when hacked: Equifax and Ransomware.)
I can hope that the adolescents I knew in Texas became outstanding law-abiding cybersecurity experts. I know that they had the aptitude for it. Likewise, I hope that the 11-year-old contest winner will continue to hone his skills and become the next great cybersecurity expert. Our society needs persons that have the skills for cybersecurity and who are willing to champion the cause of safe internet and world wide web use, and prevent cybersecurity hacking.