The NSA Wants to Recruit Teen Hackers for Good

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Does your 13-year-old need something to do next summer? Here’s a novel idea: Send her to a special cybersecurity camp run by the NSA.

The beleaguered agency’s new program tries to catch the youngest computer-savvy recruits and inculcate loyalty before they become exposed to the libertarian ideals of Reddit or read the manifestos of Aaron Swartz.

The camps are for students as young as eighth-graders and start by teaching them the basics of network security and programming, according to recruiter Steven LaFountain:

What we ask the camps to do to start out is just to give students the fundamental awareness of cybersecurity so they understand the threats that are out there on the Internet and basic things that they should do to protect themselves. Some of the camps did some more technical things. Some did introduction to secure programming. Another program did an introduction to wireless networking and wireless security. And the students are really, really into it.

It’s part of LaFountain’s larger effort to beef up agency recruitment, which also includes outreach to students at two dozen universities. He says Edward Snowden’s revelations have not hindered their efforts because recruits are “not bothered by, let’s say, the politics of things like that.”