My son, Christopher, is extremely tech savvy. At 13-years-of-age:
- He’s very proficient with DOS batch programming.
- he’s already written multiple programs in VB.NET and in Visual Studio.
- He’s made a small side business of modifying XBox controllers, soldering on special chips and buttons to allow for rapid fire and different modes in different games.
- He routinely re-installs operating systems and is the “computer guru” for the family and his friends.
- He creates numerous game captures and does extensive video editing on his YouTube page.
- He runs cabling and wire within the house. He can hook up TVs, stereo systems, home networks, etc.
- When he was learning to be an “ethical hacker” he wrote a phishing program in .NET that collected usernames and passwords from hundreds of users of an online virtual world called Habbo.
All in all, Christopher has an amazing ability with technology that surpasses my own. When I was 13, I was building Morse-code generators, crystal diode radios, fiddling with my dad’s HAM radio, and trying to mod my Atari 2600 gaming system.
It’s no surprise that Christopher is doing more, and better, with today’s technology than I did as a youth. I have passed the torch! He embraces it and truly embodies the spirit of the modern Internet-based age. I am so proud of him – but I’m also very committed that he takes his responsibilities seriously. Ethical hacking is hacking not for personal gain or to harm others, but for the pure enjoyment of it or to help expose vulnerabilities that, left undetected, could harm others. And that’s what Christopher does.
Yesterday Christopher asked me for a CAT5 cable and a spare light switch, both of which I keep in my tool chest. In just a few minutes he had spliced the light switch into the CAT5 cable, effectively creating an on/off switch on the line.
He connected it between the XBox in the living room and the router. He then fired up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and hosted a game.
You can imagine what happened next. When a handful of others joined the game, Christopher would intermittently flip the switch, causing the other players to freeze, or “lag.” This gave him time to run around, kill the frozen players in the game, and then retreat before turning the switch back on.
Of course, the other players had no idea what was going on – all they knew was they the connection slowed down and they were killed. No one was harmed, it was fun, and we all got a good laugh out of it. I can imagine that some were frustrated.
Some people have expressed concern that he is cheating and that by allowing him to continue I am setting a bad example.
Is Christopher cheating at the game? Absolutely.
Is it criminal? Absolutely not.
Will this behavior contribute to him being a delinquent? No. He is applying his technical skills in a way that he enjoys, is hurting no one, and is learning a lot as he goes. Christopher has a great sense of fair play does not cheat anyone. This is a safe outlet for his creative and technical skills.
Am I teaching him a bad lesson? No. He knows right from wrong. And he knows degrees of right and wrong. He knows that this “hack” of his is a cheat but he also knows that it causes absolutely no harm to anyone beyond temporary frustration. The alleged victims can simply exit the game and join one of thousands of other hosts.
I, as his father, fully support him and am so proud of him for his intelligence and initiative.
Interesting Topic. I am sure many of us older hackers can relate. As for your philosophical questions, read :
The second link is from Sammy who played some tricks on MySpace a couple years back. When I first read it, I said, wow, that is cool. I was shocked the guy almost got jail time. Sometimes hacking can be a fine line… Make sure your son knows that line.
[…] Family ← Passing the Technology Torch […]