Chris Hoff at RSA 2015

The future of security is in the hands of the youth

When it comes to high tech security stuff it is no longer the aged, serious looking computer scientists that hold hope for the future. The next generation of security actually rests on the delicate young shoulders of Millennials and beyond according to Juniper CTO Chris Hoff.

This thought was reinforced last week at the RSA Security conference in San Francisco. Hoff shared the dais with 9-year old expert Reuben Paul. This might seem as a surprise but those who know about him are well aware of the programming skills of the whiz kid along with his hacking capabilities—which he demonstrated live on the platform.

Hoff had a purpose in inviting Reuben to the stage. He wanted to stress how serious security issues are getting by the day and illustrate that the new generation of children who are exposed to technology from birth find it easy to grasp and break rules we consider invincible. Hence it is in the best interests of companies and governments to take note of the issue and start training young children in security practices.

It’s true that innocence is the hallmark of a child and he/she should not be involved in such serious debates and issues. Yet the changing times require that they’re indoctrinated with good habits and think in terms of IT security so that when they grow up and enter their respective professions and fields—especially IT security—theses habits are instilled and become second nature.

Some people feel that exposing kids to hacking and similar issues could develop anti-mainstream sentiments and they might be fascinated by the idea of malicious or black hat activities. Hoff addressed this concern but emphasized his ongoing efforts working with youth. He believes that unless the younger generation is trained properly the future of IT security is bleak.

Not every kid can or will have the skills and capabilities of Reuben yet they are all brilliant and can contribute to a safer networked world if given the right awareness, information and learning. It is the onus of the current generation to train the next generation for this responsibility. There are a number of ways to achieve this like volunteering time to visit schools and spreading the idea with the help of school administrations and local authorities. It is only when the children realize that what they are learning is important and it connects directly to their everyday life that the message will start to sink in more deeply.

Even if these kids are not involved directly in IT security careers later on they will at least have a better idea of the issues related to security. That knowledge will be particularly useful for those who develop any games or applications for a living.

Even experts like Hoff are amazed at the manner in which such young children have the power to grasp complex issues which we the adults struggle with and take time to learn. Hoff summed up his presentation with a call to action: security is a universal and global issue and it is the responsibility of all of us to learn and grow irrespective of our age and technical expertise. We all have an obligation to contribute and give back and foster the next generation of information security experts.

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