Pre-pubescent hackers – what are governments doing to protect their systems?

Hacking is child’s play – or so it seems as young people, some aged only 11, are beginning to use various tools and instructions online to hack into online games (as reported by Mashable).

The rise of state-based hacking (whether for political or commercial reasons) has profoundly changed challenges facing government agencies, both in terms of their own security and in terms of how they protect the citizens and businesses that exist under their jurisdictional protection.

It is interesting to consider that if foreign troops or terrorists invaded a business’s building in central Melbourne, or Sydney’s north shore the government would be expected and obliged to respond with its own armed police and troops, however if the same business’s computer systems were invaded by a similarly malicious foreign power, terrorist group or criminal syndicate, the business is almost alone, held almost totally responsible for their own security and protection – despite the potential for severe economic disruption or damage to the national interest.

That situation becomes even more complex if the foreign troops behind the digital attack are children.

With a seven year old first grader now the youngest person to develop a mobile app, with other children around that age now developing coding skills and with potential motivations, such as unlocking special pets, levels or privileges in online games and social networks, how long will it be before young children are trained and put to work as hackers by criminal or state organisations?

Not too long, in my view, which comes back to the main question – what should governments be doing to protect their systems, and the systems of citizens and businesses, from a rising tide of state-sponsored hacking, particularly as it becomes child’s play?

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