Building Communities: Hackers, Law Enforcement & Cyber Security

I've been on the hackathon circuit again and this last hack event was very interesting because it was a high school hack event . This event is called HackBCA ( which was organized and managed by students. While at HackBCA I served as a mentor assisting the hackers and their teams answering questions & providing general problem resolution. It was great collaborating and socializing with the hacker youth. There were some really smart, edgy & innovative high-schoolers at this hackathon. I was really impressed with their level of technical knowledge and experience. I felt that some of these hackers skills & experience where definitely at an advance level.

At this hackathon I overheard some conversations regarding cracking servers and other assets amongst the hackers. Now most of the conversations were jokes & banter but they got me thinking about overall cyber ethics and who or what is influencing these young hackers. Are they developing ethics while honing their skills? Do they realize the consequences or impact of their choices & actions? I'm sure most of them have thought of the consequences and can justify their actions based on their ethical perspectives but the question still remains - Are their actions legal? Who is educating the youth on the governing cyber & technology laws?

I've actually been giving these questions lots of thought. There has always been a huge divide between the hacker & Law Enforcement communities. Why the divide? These two groups often share the same ethics and morals. Take child pornography as an example, law enforcement & hacker groups make it their mission to take these sites down via cyber attacks or straight up crime fighting. In this regard these groups share the same ethics and mission. One side maintains a vigilante perspective and the other sanctioned & backed by the courts.

I'm all about building communities and I'm fully aware of the factors that contribute to the inherent divide but I believe that a mutual respect and dare I say... trust can be forged. I've always been interested in engaging the Law Enforcement community in mentoring future hackers. I see no reason why a young hacker couldn't be mentored by a “cyber” cop or an actual FBI agent. Imagine the positive impact that these Law Enforcement mentors could have on the lives and decisions of the young hackers. The amount of useful & relevant knowledge bestowed by mentors would effectively educate the young hackers on relevant cyber principles & laws while imparting a sense of ethics. Teach them how to hack & show them how to hack responsibly... whatever that means :-) . Show them why & how assets are exploited. Make it about the science of computers /technology and not solely a lesson in right or wrong.

As veteran hackathon mentor I've been inspired for quite some time now to organize a Hack event that facilitates cyber Law Enforcement officials serving as mentors to young hackers. Where cops and hackers can hack on cool projects side by side and build next gen technologies together. So if you're a hacker, technologist, cop, federal agent or all of the above post your thoughts & comments or better yet get involved and organize an LE / Hacker event of your own in your town.

I've already got the ball rolling on a local LE / Hacker event and I will post my progress in this blog.