15 under 15: How these kids are changing IT

Passcode identified 15 kids aged 15 and under who are improving the world of IT and promoting tech education.

Here is Passcode's list of hacker kids.

1. CyFi. To protect her identity, this 15-year-old girl wears sunglasses and keeps her real name a mystery. "You know how superheroes go by their superhero names, like Superman and stuff?" she said. "It's good to have a hacker name so the villains don't know how to get you."

At age 10, CyFi hacked Smurfs' Village, an app that enables users to create virtual farms. A few years later, she cofounded r00tz Asylum, which hosts ethical hacking workshops for kids.

2. Kristoffer Von Hassel. At age five, Kristoffer hacked the parental controls on his father's XBox One so he could play violent video games like Call of Duty. When he and his dad informed Microsoft of the problem, the company fixed the flaw and Kristoffer quickly became known as the world's youngest hacker.

"When I jammed the buttons I probably saved Microsoft's b-u-t-t," said Kristoffer, now eight years old. "If hackers got control of all these internet-controlled devices, then we would really have no fun."

3. Reuben Paul. "When I get older, I want to be a businessman by day and a cyberspy by night," said Reuben. The 10-year-old, who has been learning how to hack since the age of six, is already on the path to fulfilling his dream.

As the U.S.' youngest second degree black belt in the Shaolin style of Kung Fu, created an account on the CyberShaolin.org website. On the site, Reuben narrates lessons for kids on cybersecurity topics.

4. Mira Modi. Although she's only 12 years old, Mira already has a successful business constructing passwords. "If you were choosing your own password you'd probably associate it with something easy to remember, like, maybe your pet's name," she said.

Through her business, Diceware, she generates passwords by rolling five dice. The combination corresponds to a word in the 60-page Diceware dictionary she keeps. To date, Mira has already filled almost 2,000 orders.

5. Paul Vann. At 14 years-old, Paul Vann has skipped a grade and is currently a sophomore in high school. His bedroom serves as the headquarters for the company he created, Vann Tech. His latest project? A startup that tests companies' cybersecurity. And Paul is eager as ever to get Vann Tech off the ground.

"Once I have the funding, I think we need a building and we definitely need more employees," he said. "I can't be the only one developing projects."

6. Andrew Wang. When Andrew was eight years old, he clicked on a link from an unidentified sender, which enabled a hacker to interfere with his family's computer. Though his parents were upset, Andrew taught himself to use security tools to delete the virus. "When I fixed it, all that doubt and worry went away. And I thought, 'Maybe computers aren't as hard as I thought initially,'" he said.

Since then, Andrew, now 14 and a freshman in high school, went on to captain his middle school team that won the national cyberdefense competition CyberPatriot.

7. Akul Arora. A 15-year-old high school student, Akul spent part of his summer helping improve his San Diego high school's cybersecurity. Not only is he creating a training program to teach fellow students about phishing scams, he's also taking his knowledge back to his elementary school, teaching kids how to differentiate between secure and insecure sites.

"You don't have to think of everyone in cybersecurity as someone who wants to break into systems, but someone who wants to do something for the community," Akul said.

8. Kryptina. Like CyFi, Kryptina wears sunglasses and goes by her fake name. But this 15-year-old is well-versed in a slightly different area: bitcoin. When she was nine years old, her dad — who goes by his hacker name Tuxavant — helped her become one of the world's youngest bitcoin users.

In 2010, Kryptina began receiving a bitcoin allowance from her dad, who now uses bitcoin to pay the bills at his office.  Kryptina and Tuxavant even co-wrote a song together about bitcoin, aptly titled "Love You Like a Bitcoin."

9. Evan Robertson. Unlike so many people, 11-year-old Evan is intent on reading online terms and conditions in full before clicking "agree." For his science fair project, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. "I decided to test how many people care about their WiFi security," he said.

And he did just that. Evan created a pop-up internet hotspot that contained terms and conditions that "no one in the universe should agree to," he said. More than half — roughly 40 — of the 76 participants who connected to WiFi agreed to the terms and conditions without reading them in full.

10. Mollee McDuff. At this summer's r00tz Asylum, Mollee gave a well-liked presentation about to hack the video game Minecraft. When she grows up, the 13-year-old wants to create her own video games. "I figured, it I can get into this [now], then I can do bigger things later on," she said. But "you have to be careful making sure it's stuff that's not malicious and you have to be doing it for good," Mollee added.

11 and 12. Min Kim and Isag Kim. Min and Isag — who aren't related — were the only students at their Los Angeles middle school who signed up for CyberPatriot. But the duo, who have known each other since third grade, were determined to compete. "We had to learn more and practice and study harder than anyone," said Min, 13.

Together, they beat approximately 460 teams to make it to nationals. Their success helped the pair gain tremendous confidence. "Guys are meant to be energetic and more into adventure stuff and girls are kind of supposed to be like, princesses and very girly. It helps us know that girls can be just as good as boys," said Isag, 14.

13. Emmett Brewer. Ten-year-old Emmett goes by the name p0wnyb0y online. When Facebook released its Capture the Flag platform, which gives students a safe and legal way to try hacking, this summer, Emmett decided to give a talk about hosting your own Capture the Flag competitions at this year's r00tz Asylum.

"Hacking is important to test out stuff and make sure it's encrypted," he said. "If you don't have enough security, people can try to get in and mess around with your stuff."

14. Blanca Lombera. Blanca, 15, was born in Mexico but has lived in San Jose, Calif., since she was six years old. Her mother finished school up to third grade and her older siblings didn't complete high school. Last year, Blanca randomly signed up for a cybersecurity and technology class and fell in love.

Since then, she's spoken on a panel for CyberGirlz Silicon Valley, learned to code via code.org and helped get a coach for an all-girls CyberPatriot team at her high school.

15. Matthew Nguyen. Matthew, a 13-year-old who wants to be a psychiatrist when he grows up, already knows the significance of cybersecurity in healthcare. "If you were a doctor, or a psychiatrist, you'd want to keep your clients' information secure," he said. "Because if their information were to leak out, then I'd be in huge trouble."

Matthew currently teaches his fellow classmates about IT security and is an advocate for educating everyone — regardless of their desire to go into tech professions — about cybersecurity. "If we don't learn about cybersecurity, then who's going to stop people from taking your information?" he asked.

Click here to view the full list of Passcode's hacker kids.

More articles on IT:
Why top websites crashed Friday: 7 things to know
10 recent vendor contracts, go-lives
St. Joseph Health to pay $2M HIPAA settlement

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2019. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.

 

Top 40 Articles from the Past 6 Months