Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education Programming Security

Why We Need To Teach Hacking In High School 124

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the rms-teaches-programming dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Following one of the best descriptions ever of a hacker I've ever seen, Pete Herzog, creator of the 'security testing' (professional hacking) manual OSSTMM outlines compelling reasons why the traits of the hacker should be taught in school to make better students and better people. It starts out with 'Whatever you may have heard about hackers, the truth is they do something really, really well: discover.' and it covers open education, teaching kids to think for themselves, and promoting hacking as a tool for progress." A good read, despite confusing hacker and hacker a bit. I remember getting to set up Debian on a scrap machine in high school, only to have county IT kill the project because of the horrible danger experimentation could have proven to the network...
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why We Need To Teach Hacking In High School

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:04PM (#46361433)

    Every industry wants their industry taught in high school, maybe we should teach things that are useful in general instead of SQL injection or writing Haskell.

    • by nucrash (549705) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:26PM (#46361671)

      I think the biggest thing is that we need to focus on how to make the students learn rather than trying to initiate them into a bunch of subjects they may or may not be interested in. I know students who will never love math, English, history, or science, but if we can pique their curiosity in such a way that they begin to dig for information outside of school, then we have done more for a student than shoving a curriculum down their throat ever will. This is fundamentally what good teachers are for. They take an existing curriculum and try to drive the student to find information out rather than provide the students with answers to questions on a test.

      Hacking is a great skill to have. Is it a life skill? Not really. Having the desire to hack is far more important because the students will seek the knowledge.

      • I think the biggest thing is that we need to focus on how to make the students learn rather than trying to initiate them into a bunch of subjects they may or may not be interested in. I know students who will never love math, English, history, or science, but if we can pique their curiosity in such a way that they begin to dig for information outside of school, then we have done more for a student than shoving a curriculum down their throat ever will. This is fundamentally what good teachers are for. They take an existing curriculum and try to drive the student to find information out rather than provide the students with answers to questions on a test.

        Hacking is a great skill to have. Is it a life skill? Not really. Having the desire to hack is far more important because the students will seek the knowledge.

        Well first you'll have to figure out how to teach teachers to enjoy seeking out information rather than just sliding by to get a degree in babysitting. You're going to have an uphill battle with that one.

    • by Soulskill (1459) Works for Slashdot on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:30PM (#46361697) Homepage

      It's not the particular language that's important -- once you get beyond the basic syntax of a language, it's really about analyzing a problem and being able to break it down into logically ordered steps, and then manipulating algorithms to do what you want. Those skills are very broadly applicable, and useful whatever a kid's profession ends up being.

      • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:42PM (#46361805) Homepage Journal

        And the trick, good soulskill, is that not everyone is an INTJ for whom this is the natural way to attack a problem.

        • by Culture20 (968837)
          Yes, some people are INTP, and prefer to analyze the problem thoroughly and investigate all possible solutions to make sure that the best solution is chosen. Starting to solve the problem immediately is where madness lies. In fact, is it even a problem? Perhaps it's a new undocumented feature. More study is required.
          • And still other people realize that all this INTP/INTJ/whatever garbage is pseudoscience that serves only to satisfy people who have a strong desire for simplistic labels above all else.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Kids started to apprentice really young back in the old days. Now students have to wait until university/college until they are allowed to specialize, at least as far as school is concerned. Perhaps we should give high school students more freedom to specialize at a younger age. If some kid knows he wants to be a carpenter, why not let him have a wood shop class every semester.
      • Indeed....an high school is too late. If they aren't able to take command of a ship at age twelve I believe the kid is already spoiled beyond repair.

    • I do feel that this is a bit different... I feel hacking is about discovering how things work, and getting creative with making changes to how they work.. this can actually range from crafts, art, design, cooking, and other skills as well. It's about teaching discovery and learning.

      On the flip side, the thought of training a generation of kids to be *creative* with technology probably terrifies some people in the government to no end.
    • Hacking is an industry?

  • I don't think so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:05PM (#46361453) Homepage Journal
    The school admins already have a hard enough time dealing with kids destroying things, both logically and physically. Now you expect them to be on the level enough to be able to stave away actually taught hackers? How much are you willing to pay for this little experiment (both in the admins pay, and the cost of cleaning up the disasters)?
    • Re:I don't think so (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:25PM (#46361669)

      This, because, as alluded to in TFS, it always creates more work for them. Observe:

      I remember getting to set up Debian on a scrap machine in high school, only to have county IT kill the project because of the horrible danger experimentation could have proven to the network...

      I'm here to tell you that an uncontrolled machine ran by amateurs is a prime example of 'danger to the network'. I still recall the day the new guy named his Ubuntu box the same thing as our domain suffix. Only because I knew what was supposed to be on the network and what wasn't was I able to get things back up and running again. The same thing can happen with a simple IP address conflict.

      In short, to do this with any educational value, IT would have to segregate the network to prevent accidental student damage. From what I know of most educational IT, they lack the time, money, and (sorry to say) skills/training to do this for their production networks, let alone standing up test labs for hackers to play with.

      Maybe in an IT-centric school, sure. But primary education? Puhlease.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        VirtualBox, VMware Workstation is a great environment where you can set up your own virtualized TCP/IP network for VMed clients that doesn't leave the machine. People need to step away from hardware until they know more about it.

      • by ray-auch (454705)

        This, because, as alluded to in TFS, it always creates more work for them. Observe:

        I remember getting to set up Debian on a scrap machine in high school, only to have county IT kill the project because of the horrible danger experimentation could have proven to the network...

        I'm here to tell you that an uncontrolled machine ran by amateurs is a prime example of 'danger to the network'.

        Some of us can still recall when any Linux box could (and did) cause a packet storm if the subnet mask was not on a byte boundary.

        From what I know of most educational IT, they lack the time, money, and (sorry to say) skills/training to do this for their production networks, let alone standing up test labs for hackers to play with.

        Yes, but these days you can set up your test lab virtual and isolated (on pretty much and desktop or even laptop) - let the students do that themselves to learn. Not too many settings you'd have to check/lock to ensure network isolation. I haven't seen a physical test lab (for software testing) in years.

      • Maybe if they paid an IT staff more than 1/3 the prevailing industry wage, and had a hiring process resembling something the industry supports (in terms of timeframe). Most people aren't looking for a job until they need one, and a 3-6 month hiring process for 1/3 the pay won't do.
        • by BobMcD (601576)

          As I understand it, the teacher pay sets the maximum rates. IT staff always get less than the 'best teachers' get, which unfortunately puts them at odds with reality. Ergo 1/3 the pay.

      • Then let's give them un-networked boxes to play with, or at least isolated physically from anything but other hackboxes. And also consider all of the other things you could do away from a computer, and still qualify as a hacker.

        Now that I've invalidated your objection, do you have anything else?

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          I covered your 'invalidation' already when I said 'for it to have any educational value'.

          Problem #1 - 'un-networked' boxes are a fallacy. Everything is connected these days. Just ask the centrifuge guys in Iran. The 'air wall' effectively just does not exist. So if you're educating them under such a false perspective, what exactly is the value of what they're learning?

          Problem #2 - hackboxes aren't targets. This would be like pinning rifles to the wall for target practice. It is again so very far remov

    • by gnick (1211984)

      If you try to hide it from everyone, the only people able to access it are the people who want to exploit it and the few who are dedicated enough to stopping it to stray out of bounds to do so. Make it available to everyone who wants access and you'll also get the people who want to stop it without stepping out of bounds.

      (I'm one of the lucky few who went WAY out of bounds and never got caught, but learned enough to make a career out of it.)

    • by Khopesh (112447)

      When I went off to college, many of my most IT-savvy freshman colleagues were versed in networks and system administration because they had run the computer labs of their high schools. Some of them had been caught cracking or otherwise mucking about in ways that the school staff lacked the ability to revert and been forced to clean up after themselves, others saw messes and volunteered to help out. They got paid and had responsibilities. From this new perspective, they learned the "damage" students could

      • When I went off to college, many of my most IT-savvy freshman colleagues were versed in networks and system administration because they had run the computer labs of their high schools. Some of them had been caught cracking or otherwise mucking about in ways that the school staff lacked the ability to revert and been forced to clean up after themselves, others saw messes and volunteered to help out.

        Times have changed - when I did my computer science degree, most of the students were at the geeky end of the spectrum and were there because that's what they were really into. Compare to the present-day cross section of computer science students: most of them are there because computers are seen as a good career. The extra-curricular interest is giving way to people who just want a job.

        • by Khopesh (112447)

          Times have changed - when I did my computer science degree, most of the students were at the geeky end of the spectrum and were there because that's what they were really into. Compare to the present-day cross section of computer science students: most of them are there because computers are seen as a good career. The extra-curricular interest is giving way to people who just want a job.

          I disagree. People like you and me merely congregated together and ignored the others. (Also, you went to school in Wales. Different world.) My above statement was about "my most IT-savvy freshman colleagues," which is to say under a dozen total (and I was friends with all of them). I'd say about 75% of my freshman peers in CS declared the major for its salaries and/or a passion for video games. I imagine today's breakdown is roughly the same, more due to the fact that most freshmen are blank slates t

  • Kids are going to practice "hacker" methodology plenty enough. Schools should stick to teaching fundamentals that they won't bother learning on their own. Besides, they need exposure ot the disciplinarian side of programming as well. Hopefully, enough will sink in so that when they get their first jobs they'll be somewhat prepared for the shift.

    • by litehacksaur111 (2895607) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:10PM (#46361477)
      I agree. If anything schools here should be more like schools in Germany where they have strong vocational training programs for people who are not suitable for university education. Also it would be nice if schools worked with students and their parents to steer them towards careers they find interesting instead of trying to force a generic curriculum on everyone.
      • Yeah, that works in Germany.

        The moment that kids were identified as unsuitable for college in America and shunted off to vocational programs, the racism lawsuits would come so fast they'd make your head spin.

        • Why did you try to interject race into this? They have magnet schools here in many states which are public schools where entrance is merit based. These schools are not being with lawsuits. Please go and look at the top schools list in the US News rankings because you have no clue what you are talking about. Also I did not say that vocation jobs were inferior to college educated jobs. You however seem to imply that. Vocational training in plumbing, construction, drafting, electrician type work, machining, e
        • by Pope (17780)

          Yeah, that works in Germany.

          The moment that kids were identified as unsuitable for college in America and shunted off to vocational programs, the racism lawsuits would come so fast they'd make your head spin.

          LMAO. The vast majority of kids in my high school shop programs were white.

      • Germans split the kids into 3 different streams after grade 4. That's far too young for parents and teachers to decide whether the kid is interested is suitable for University or not.However, Germany has really great vocational schools though. Every plumber, electrician, construction worker, even baker knows their field extremely well.
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:15PM (#46361549) Journal

    I went to a private high school. It was small and didn't have many resources. Still, I was fortunate to have a very supportive environment for my exploration and learning related to computing.

    The teacher who taught programming had actually managed IT/network stuff in Micronesia, so she was not in the habit of throwing old tech out. We received a lot of donated equipment from various businesses, and she saved most of it in a storage room. When she found out how interested I was in technology, she basically gave me the run of the place - allowed me to take home equipment to play with, just hang out in there during lunch and after school, put together new machines for the lab, etc. This was where I first learned about other architectures - got my hands on an old DEC Alpha.

    When she saw that I had already self-taught some programming, she allowed me to skip directly to an advanced programming course, and teach myself as an independent study.

    Later, she let me set up an NT server with roving profiles and network home directories for the lab, so that students in the general office suite classes could save their work on the network, keep it backed up, and their teacher would have centralized access to it. Prior to this, they were all using floppy disks.

    Without that environment I'd still have been interested and involved with tech, but it sure made it easier and more interesting, and I learned a lot. I suspect that many teachers might not have been willing to allow a student so much freedom, or that policies might have forbidden it.

    • One of my teachers in high school gave me relatively unfettered access to a mac clones that had been booted from the computer lab. My experiments in getting mklinux working on it directly tie to my current career. I have relatively little doubt that my current career stems from having unstructured access to a computer and an internet connection. Sadly, our educational institutions are addicted to structure -- I would probably be doing something much less interesting if it weren't for a teacher that bent

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:16PM (#46361559)

    ... right? We really need to stop treating all high school students as equals because it hurts all of them.

    The students that are having a hard time mastering literacy need a lot of remedial help. The ones that are doing very well need access to accelerated programs and additional subjects.

    Do NOT group these kids together. You will make sure the kids that are behind learn NOTHING and the kids that are ahead will achieve less.

    • Where are the mod point when you need them, this should be +11 or so.

      Based on my experience, the way my public HS handled this was pretty much the optimum. There were 3 academic sections for the "big" subject (English, math, history, some sciences), my recollection of the names is fuzzy but they were essentially advanced, average, and remedial. The latter is pretty self explanatory, and really, the best way to deal with somebody who needs extra help is to give it to them both to help that student and to kee

      • They do... but they exist only so long as the schools have the flexibility to do what is right for their specific school. Every community is different.

        The great danger is setting national standards that force schools to do everything the same way which will mean most people won't get what they need.

  • by BlueMonk (101716) <BlueMonkMN@gmail.com> on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:18PM (#46361585) Homepage

    A good read, despite confusing hacker and hacker a bit

    I can sure see the confusion. I can't see any difference between "hacker" and "hacker" myself. What am I missing?

    • by asylumx (881307)
      I'm wondering if the submitter meant hacker vs. cracker, given the link they used there.
    • by ZouPrime (460611)

      See the provided link for the "definitions".

      I really like how the very last one (8. "A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around") is said to be deprecated, when it is by FAR the most commonly used, among infosec professionals, in the litterature, the media and well, pretty much everybody, for the last decade or so... The only exception being that tiny minority who still cling to the old-school definition...

      But yeah... "Deprecated."

      • by Desler (1608317)

        Whoosh? They were making fun of Unknown Lamer inserting his editorial trying to be a pedant but basically failed at it by saying "hacker and hacker" instead of "hacker and cracker". It's like laughing at a grammar nazi who was trying to correct someone but failed at spelling/grammar themselves in their post.

    • It's the exact same difference as Spy [wikipedia.org] vs Spy [amazon.com]

      Or in other words, a tool is NOT good or evil -- it's just a tool.

      And it doesn't like you when you anthropomorphize. :-)
    • It's like the difference between hunter2 and hunter2.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    is critical thinking.... unfortunately that would make teacher's job of herding students impossible.

    • is critical thinking.... unfortunately that would make teacher's job of herding students impossible.

      "Critical thinking" is a meaningless phrase. The wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] contains nine different definitions. It is usually advocated by befuddled people that are vaguely opposed to whatever we are currently teaching, but have no clear idea what should be done instead.

      So ... can you actually describe what a lesson in "critical thinking" would look like?

  • hackers teach themselves
  • While both hacking and cracking should be available to gifted students, most of them need to learn a simple skill that will take them far in life: how to file a bug report.

    More companies nowadays depend on their software and good feedback from users is very hard to find. In such environment, those who can file a proper bug report, or write up an understandable feature request, can genuinely prosper.

    Those who can properly ask for e.g. a data report from IT, or explain what's wrong with company's intranet
  • The educational system has turned into the educator of many trades and the master of none already.

    I would argue that we teach too many subjects in high school as it is. We need to not only increase the high school graduation rates but also have the graduates have an equivalent of a 12 grade intelligence when they graduate.

    • What is a "12 grade intelligence"? Most people are incurably unintelligent, so a "12 grade intelligence" is never going to be impressive.

      • The graduation exams have questions no harder than an eighth grade level. We shouldn't have to dumb down the questions to have graduates.
        • Eighth grade? More like first grade. The questions don't test for understanding at all; just rote memorization. I fear most people wouldn't even come close to being able to handle questions that actually tested their understanding.

  • by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:54PM (#46361919) Homepage

    i grow tired of the never ending reframing of the word "hacker"..almost to the point of it becoming meaningless.

    what TFA article is really saying is that "we want people to be motivated to use the technology to really LEARN the technology, and to do so during free time and out of the pure joy of learning how this crazy tech shit works"...kinda like learning to play a musical instrument (well, exactly like learning to play a musical instrument).

    no one "teaches" someone how to play guitar...you may be shown some notes and simple phrases, but only by spending hours and hours of finger-cramping playing will one learn to play guitar. the frustration and struggle IS THE POINT.

    let me say that again...THE FRUSTRATION AND STRUGGLE IS THE POINT.

    that's what "hacker" should really mean...someone who endures FRUSTRATION and STRUGGLE and turns that experience into knowhow...it is really the basis of ALL LEARNING.

    those that never "hack", never really learn *anything*.

    • by anmre (2956771)

      I've always liked the comparison to musicians. As a guitarist myself, throughout my life I've "inspired" others to want to play, and so I'd set them up with everything they need to get started on the right foot. They always quit somewhere between "damn, my fingers hurt!" and "why can't I play like you, yet?"

      It puzzled me until I realized that such people aren't actually interested in playing the guitar, so much as they want to prove to themselves that what they thought was easy actually is easy. In short

      • wow...excellent insights...and I LOLed about your story about teaching others to play...I've been at it for about 30 years now, and over that time i've had close to 50 "students" come and go, and about 8 years ago I finally stopped charging people and now give "free" lessons...

        my lesson? pick up your guitar for at least 30 minutes a day and play whatever easy progression that lights your fire...keep at it and even when your fingers get sore, just play single note melodies or dropped-d finger bar chords.

        if

    • You apparently don't know anything about musical pedagogy. That's fine, you just need to realize that you are ignorant.

      Learning to play an instrument the hacker way is exactly like being a hacker in other ways. Learning to play an instrument the non-hacker way is exactly unlike being a hacker in other ways.

      The people who are really good at playing, regardless of how they were taught, have at least a little of the hacker experimentalist attitude, and try things different ways to see if it makes things easi

  • Before I tell my anecdotal story, I want to touch on the fact that the current educational environment is not conducive to this kind of think for yourself learning. We could have a lengthy debate about why this is, and I would mostly refer you to the Reece Committee and Norman Dodd's investigation into tax-exempt foundations. Suffice to say, the fact of the matter is that TPTB don't want a mass influx of independent self-taught thinkers, they want people just smart enough to push the buttons and papers they want them to but not smart enough to go above that (unless they are part of the aristocratic oligarchic class). This is the result of the purposeful introduction of the Prussian education system as a tool of class warfare, but I digress.

    I happened to be very lucky in this regard, my highschool was a middle of no-where Mormon-area HS full of hicks and religious people, but a local had been in industry and decided to come back and head the technology department of the school, and brought with him his industry contacts. It was one of the first high-schools to have the cisco networking academy, and I had my CCNA by the age of 17. Besides all that, it was the attitude of this man, who I called my mentor, (Barry Williams of Apache County, if anyone cares to look it up) which really encouraged this kind of thinking. He would encourage us to solve problems on our own, and mostly left us to our own devices. I will never forget the first year I was there, where he organized a wargame, and each of us hooked up our issued cisco routers to a network and the challenge was to be the first to take down everyone elses network. After a few minutes I had taken out two other guys, but then he told all of us to stop, walked over to all our boxen, and simply unplugged the cables.

    For a 16 year old that really had an impact on me about thinking "outside the box" of given parameters. Of course this kind of teaching did have it's downsides. I was only a fringe member of the group that did it, but I will never forget the day that people in suits showed up and talked to everyone around the high-tech center but us, and then the FBI held an assembly for this school of hicks and religious people about hacking (of which maybe 15 of us knew what that even was), because, apparently "A" (a senior while I was a sophomore) wasn't joking when he told us he got into the FBI servers. (in his defense, he said he only changed a spreadsheet and then changed it right back just to see if he could). Last I heard "A" was still on the run from the FBI for crimes committed after HS, and I know I definitely was tempted a few times to do naughty blackhat things but resisted the urge. The point is that while teaching critical thinking and hacking is good for the thinking abilities of the student, there can indeed be farther reaching consequences especially if they are of a lower socioeconomic status.

    Note: Wow, I haven't logged into /. in ages. Not sure how I feel about it these days, was just bored at work and saw this story.

  • I might even be tempted to stretch that to education, as well. Kind of ironic that those who should be willing to teach are often those most scared of learning.

    I've had teachers for whom that was not true, and those were the ones who really shone. But most of my technology-related teachers/professors would have been terrified.

  • Anything worthwhile a child can learn is done outside of school on their own volition.

  • When we read silly things like everyone must learn programming and this.

3500 Calories = 1 Food Pound

Working...