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InTechnology Podcast

#93 – What That Means with Camille: What Do Kids Know About Cybersecurity?

In this episode of Cyber Security Inside What That Means, Camille has a conversation with some of the most important people in the cybersecurity conversation: kids. From the 4th grade to recently graduating college, Arnold, Mahika, Heidi, Yousef, Harrison, and Priyam shared their stories and inspiration for learning cybersecurity. The conversation covers:

  • Who the kids in the conversation are, and why they are important to the cybersecurity conversation.
  • How they got involved in cybersecurity, and the learning opportunities they have sought out.
  • Their perspectives on what is really important in cybersecurity, and how their thoughts are both similar to and different from those of adults.
  • Why cybersecurity is important for everyone to learn about, and ways people can do just that.

And more. Don’t miss it!

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guests and author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Intel Corporation.


Here are some key takeaways:

  • In this episode, we hear from all sorts of young people, from 4th grade to recent college graduates, with cybersecurity experience ranging from 2 months to many years. They talk about what cybersecurity means to them, what they are learning, and how they are all learning from one another.
  • When asking the kids, they think that there are a lot of similarities in how adults and kids think about cybersecurity. They do think that a primary difference is that kids think more about privacy, and adults think more about infrastructure.
  • Something that brought together many of the individuals in this conversation was competitions and a team of friends coming together over a shared passion for cybersecurity. 
  • In particular, they talk about Fuse Breakers, a group of kids trying to teach other kids about cybersecurity.
  • Kids talked about learning from people closer to their age being beneficial because of being able to speak a similar language and to share a similar perspective. They can teach each other in ways they understand.
  • Some of the kids gained interest in cybersecurity from gaming, others from friends, and others from family members. Some had opportunities to take classes in school, and others sought out opportunities to learn from their peers. They enjoyed learning from people similar to their age.
  • Many of these kids have been in a competition for cybersecurity. They will give you a computer with problems and ask you to fix them. There is also password cracking and more, and you can compete individually or on a team. A lot of experience is gained for these kids.
  • The kids made it very clear that no matter what they study or what career they go into, it has been clear to them that cybersecurity will be a part of their future. Each one found an interest in the field in a different way. Many of them talked about the overlap between jobs like being a doctor, a biologist, and others, and cybersecurity.
  • The young people interviewed talked about the progression of technology and how it has integrated its way into every profession and so many other places in life.
  • They talked about how cybersecurity affects us in our everyday lives. Harrison shared a story about his Instagram account getting hacked, and how dual factor authentication saved his account access. Cybersecurity is relatable and important for everyone.


Some interesting quotes from today’s episode:

“There was a shortage on gasoline in some areas because their system was hacked… If there wasn’t cybersecurity at all, then it would have more serious things that just gasoline, like hospitals could get hacked.” – Heidi

“One thing that I noticed is that, like, in most schools – or everywhere, really – one generation teaches the next. But why not the same generation teaching each other?” – Heidi

“So, cybersecurity to me isn’t just, like, competitions and fun. It’s also what comes to mind first: it’s exploiting areas and then improving it, which improves all platforms.” – Heidi

“I think a lot of it’s definitely collaboration, because in most competitions I’ve been in, it’s been very team oriented… It’s a lot of true collaboration, because you’re, like, in the same room, you’re talking, and bouncing ideas off of each other. It’s a whole team effort, even though there’s only one or two people on a system at one time.” – Harrison

“We learned about [cybersecurity] in school, and it was not really a big thing, but then cyber bullying came up, and I guess the way those two connected, that was really interesting to me.” – Mahika

“We’ve talked about all these competitions and really advanced topics, like encryption, password cracking, and that type of thing. And I just kind of want to point out how, like, relatable all this is. Even though it sounds loftey and over complicated, it affects us in our everyday life.” – Harrison

“Like, just a couple of weeks ago, someone tried to hack my Instagram. They got through a really complex password… And the only reason why I still have access to my Instagram account is because I had dual factor authentication turned on.” – Harrison

“When we were kids, we were told to be aware of strangers. But these days, it’s more like, be aware of cyber strangers. Because we are exposed to so many now on many platforms. So it’s important to know a bit about how to protect your privacy on your devices.” – Priyam

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[00:00:04] Arnold: Hi, I’m Arnold and I’m in fourth grade and I’ve been doing cybersecurity for around three years. 

[00:00:12] Mahika: Hi.  I’m Mahika and I’m in fifth grade and I’ve been interested in cyber security for around two years. 

[00:00:21] Heidi: Hi, my name is Heidi and I’ve been teaching cyber security for around two years. 

[00:00:26] Yousef: Hi, my name is Yousef. I am from Egypt. I’ve been learning about cyber security for two months. 

[00:00:32] Harrison: Hi, I’m Harrison. I’m a freshman in college and I’ve been involved in various cybersecurity competitions for six years and teaching the three. 

[00:00:40] Priyam Biswas: Hi, I’m Priyam. I’m a secret researcher at Intel. I’m part of Intel’s Recent College Graduate program and I’ve been in cyber security for very long time.

[00:00:50] Camille Morhardt:  Hi, I’m Camille host of What That Means part of Cyber Security Inside. And we’re going to have a conversation with all of these folks about what is cyber security, what it means to them, what they’re learning about it and how they’re learning from one another.

Camille Morhardt:  We’re looking at sort of this progression all the way from fourth grade, fifth grade, seventh grade, 10th grade freshmen in college, all the way through recent college grad. Really happy to have you guys on. You guys are special group of folks because you’re all already involved in cyber security. Let’s start with Arnold and I want to know what does cyber security mean to you?

[00:01:36] Arnold: Hm, for me cyber security means like, um, online and protecting some, like protecting online stuff and also like texting and software and programs. 

[00:01:50] Camille Morhardt: Okay, Heidi. 

[00:01:52] Heidi: There was a shortage on gasoline in some areas because their system was hacked. And I think if it wasn’t so cyber security at all, or just then it would have more serious things than just gasoline, like hospitals could get hacked, which has a bunch of electronical computers, like helping people and more like that airplanes. And I think that without cyber security, we wouldn’t be in a good place.

[00:02:17] Camille Morhardt: I think that’s a really good answer, really good points that you make. And it’s interesting to me that you’re, you have the same concerns that I’ve heard a lot of adults have, you know, about your referencing, like our critical infrastructure, like our energy supplier or gasoline supplier fuel supply in the country.

I’m wondering if you guys just in general to open it up, think that the concerns of kids around cyber security are similar to the concerns of adults, or if you guys think that there’s something different?

[00:02:49] Arnold: I think it’s almost the same, but a bit different because I think kids more think about privacy. And I think the grown-ups more talk about. Hospitals and like energy sources getting less or something like that. 

[00:03:05] Camille Morhardt: Um, let me ask you did you know or have any concept of cyber security when you were in fourth grade? 

[00:03:12] Priyam Biswas: Now? We didn’t know anything. We know about a bit about computers, but nothing about cyber security.

[00:03:19] Camille Morhardt:  Harrison, let’s bring you in the conversation at this point.  As you told us in the opening, you’re a college freshman.  About 3 years ago you created an NGO called Fuse Breakers, which is how many of you know each other.  Tell me more about the program.

[00:03:33] Harrison: Yeah, it started out just me and a whole bunch of friends, kind of just coming together over a, our shared passion of cyber security and other related and unrelated topics.  Initially we started like a robotics team and then just kind of moved away and eventually transitioned to cyber security.

And then we start off as like a really competitive team going to competitions, like, Cyber Patriots run by the Air Force and then went from there, we add more people, we met more people. And we got older, we just want to focus more on like kind of few back to people around us that resulted in the creation of Fuse Breakers.

[00:04:14] Camille Morhardt: And Fuse Breakers, is the model kind of for kids to teach other kids? Is that one of the core tenants of it? 

[00:04:22] Harrison: Yeah, exactly. So it started off, it was like me and a couple other people, my age teaching the younger generations–like Heidi and Arnold. And then now as we’ve moved out of it, they’ve now stepped up and are now teaching kids and it just kind of a beautiful perpetuating cycle, you know?

[00:04:39] Camille Morhardt: So which one of you guys has been a teacher of cyber security, to other people. Okay. So, um, Heidi, tell me about that experience. 

[00:04:49] Heidi: So teaching what my favorite part about teaching is like, I like teaching first of all, because I like seeing people understand what I know. And I taught my first course two years ago, like when school started teaching online because of COVID and I think it opened many opportunities just teaching online because there was, um, people from all around the world can connect and learn.

So I think one thing that I noticed is that like most school–or everywhere, really–that one generation teaches the next, but why not the same generation teaching each other. 

[00:05:24] Camille Morhardt: Mahika, when did you start taking classes? 

[00:05:27] Mahika: Um, they taught at school in the computer lab. And my dad told me about Heidi’s classes and I joined and we learned a lot about cyber security and coding.  It was really fun.

[00:05:41] Camille Morhardt: So you actually took a class from Heidi who’s on this call. Is she a good teacher? 

[00:05:46] Mahika: For sure.  Definitely.  I feel like it would have been a lot more difficult if an adult had taught me, but because she’s so close to my age, that became a lot easier because I guess we see things in similar ways.

[00:05:58] Camille Morhardt: Oh, really? What do you think that you guys are people your same age would see the same that an adult wouldn’t see. 

[00:06:06] Mahika: An adult may explain things in a more complex way or the way they were talk when they were younger or where the way they were taught when they were older. So if a kid is the same age around the same age, I guess, you would see things in similar ways because you’re in the same, like you learn it the same way.

So she used to make us videos about, um, how to learn Python and all the different. And I feel like it was a lot more easier than it would have been. 

[00:06:34] Camille Morhardt: So Yousef, you are the only person on this call who’s from outside the United States. I know that this program has people from all over the world, and I’m just wondering what it’s like for you kind of joining in with people in all different countries, collaborating on problems. 

[00:06:59] Yousef: It’s a unique experience. All of my friends are focusing only on gaming. I would like to pop up, do something new, something like that. And I find it interesting to do. 

[00:07:08] Camille Morhardt: How did you get involved in cyber security? What made you even think about it as an interesting topic?

[00:07:15] Yousef: Uh, my dad told me about it and my, my school here in Egypt, we don’t teach anything about cyber security, only focusing on basic computer language. So I find it will be an interesting topic to learn about it.

[00:07:27] Camille Morhardt:  You said you’re not taught cyber security at school? 

[00:07:31] Yousef: Yeah, I, um, my course I took it with Heidi. The first course I had a cyber security. It was fun. Like the mindset of people, like under my age, like in my same age, it’s like nice to someone in your own age, teach you something you don’t know. Like if you, an elder, an older one, like a father, something like that, he has a bigger mindset, so he basically teach you in the book way; but when Heidi teaches in the game form, something like that. It was fun. 

[00:08:04] Camille Morhardt: The funny thing is you’re kind of you’re at grade 10, but you’re sort of old enough that, I mean, you could be a teacher also.  So I’m just curious, what is it like having somebody younger than you teach you something? Is that like really a novelty? 

[00:08:17] Yousef: It’s not bad. It’s okay. Well, we all learn. So maybe in the future I can teach someone older or younger than me. 

[00:08:25] Camille Morhardt: So it’s not really about your age. It’s just kind of about what you know, and looking at it that way?

[00:08:31] Yousef:  Yeah.

[00:08:32] Camille Morhardt: We’ve talked about classes and teaching, but there are also competitions as a part of Fuse Breakers.   So Arnold, could you explain for people who don’t know about these competitions, what happens there?

[00:08:43] Arnold: Um, basically, um, it’s like really like your own computer, but it’s like, they give you like a test computer with problems and you try to fix those problems with different things.

[00:08:53] Camille Morhardt: Who else has been in a competition? Heidi. 

[00:08:56] Heidi: So I have to say my favorite competitions are NCL and ?Mare’s? Cup, which are both coming up soon. And what I like about NCL is that they’re filled with different topics like cryptography password cracking. Web exploitation and more like that. And I think it’s really nice because they have team games, individual games, and, um, I like all of the experiences that it gives.  Like team games, you learn how to collaborate with others and you see each other’s weaknesses and teach each other, but also use other people who specialize in cryptography to do the cryptography free problems or ones who are really good at encryption and decryption for the password cracking problems. So that’s what we learned from team game.

And I think individual game it discovering what you know, and what you need to know. So you can take courses or just learn on your own, the places like fill in the blanks from what you’ve done. So cyber security to me, isn’t just like competitions and fun. It’s also what comes to mind first: it’s exploiting areas and then improving it, which improves all like platforms.

If you wanted to see the weakness in a website, then you wouldn’t have to try to exploit it. But then, that wouldn’t be the purpose of it, the purpose, but to see where the weak points are and then to improve it there.  

[00:10:10] Camille Morhardt: So Priyam, does this sound at all familiar to you with what happens in industry and cyber security events?

[00:10:17] Priyam Biswas: Yeah, definitely. We try to do these exercises by ourselves as well–like trying to hack a computer with different bugs and vulnerabilities.  And our problems might be a bit complex, but they are definitely in the right direction. 

[00:10:32] Camille Morhardt: I think I want to ask Harrison a little bit more about collaboration in cyber security, because you said you were on a robotics team and it kind of evolved from there wanting to start something with cyber security.  Can you, can you let us know like where you see kind of solo work versus collaboration emerging in this field? 

[00:10:52] Harrison: Yeah, I think a lot of it’s definitely collaboration because in most competitions, I’ve been in, it’s been very team oriented. Yeah. For Cyber Patriot there’s actually multiple, uh, virtual images, so everyone kind of like splits off and there’s like one or two people per system; however, it is like a lot of true collaboration, ‘cause like you’re in the same room, you’re talking bouncing ideas off of each other. It’s a whole team effort, even though there’s only one or two people on a system at one time.

[00:11:23] Camille Morhardt:  Do you know what your major is already? I know your first year at university, but do you have a sense what you’re going to major in? 

[00:11:31] Harrison: Yeah, I’m working towards declaring a molecular cell bio and going for a degree there. 

[00:11:37] Camille Morhardt: Okay. And so are you going to blend that with cyber security? 

[00:11:42] Harrison: Yeah, I think so, but to be fair though, cyber security is kind of everywhere because it’s an essential part of the internet and biology. There’s a lot of sensitive information to be happy information about drugs, information, about other forms of molecules and just sharing that information while keeping it private is important. 

[00:12:07] Camille Morhardt: So I’m wondering which of you ended up being surprised at how interesting something like cyber security could be?

[00:12:38] Mahika: I guess that kind of happened to me. Um, we learned about it in school and it was not really a big thing, but then cyber bullying came up and I guess the way those two connected, that was really interesting to me. And when I took Heidi’s class, then I, I was able to go into cyber security more. So I guess, like, I wasn’t, I don’t remember I rolled my eyes at it, but it wasn’t that interesting to me until I started taking classes and learning about it.

[00:12:53] Camille Morhardt: Hmm. And does any of you guys think you’re going to end up being a, I’ll say security researcher, but I think another term that we use is hacker. And obviously there’s, you know, good hackers, ee can say hackers who are trying to hack so that they can help find vulnerabilities and make sure they get fixed and they don’t cause problems for people. Is any of you guys planning to become a good hacker? 

(Don’t tell us on the air. If you’re going to be a bad hacker, don’t want, you don’t want anybody to know that!)

[00:13:21] Heidi: I want to learn definitely more in that area, enough to become something like an ethical hacker, figuring out areas which need help and then improving them.  But I actually want to be a doctor when I grew up, but I do also want to do stuff in cyber security, too. 

[00:13:38] Camille Morhardt: Well, that’s kind of an interesting point because I think that to me anyways, one of the reasons I love this podcast is I feel like there’s an intersection between almost anything you want to pick and cyber security.  It seems to me like you can’t really, you could pick any profession or you could pick any topic that you’re interested in and they pretty much all are going to collide at some point with cyber security or cyber privacy. 

[00:14:06] Heidi: Yeah. Actually, one thing I do want to say that I remember was that when they were giving out vaccines that they wanted to observe you for awhile. So I remember I forgot exactly who had the idea, but to have an algorithm on a camera to see if you’re doing well, or like, if it looks like you are in pain or if it looks like you’re just doing good to observe you for a while to see, yeah, basically that you’re good. So I thought that was a really cool way that like health and medicine can collide with cyber security.

[00:14:37] Camille Morhardt: Yeah. I actually did a whole podcast on like medical device and hospital security also. So I, I found it fascinating. Any final thoughts from anybody on cyber security or participating in, in programs or opportunities like Fuse Breakers? 

[00:14:55] Arnold: Um, I think for cyber security. Um, I think like, one thing I saw was kind of cool is how cyber security has developed in like a long time. Like if I went to like, when, like when there was using computers to calculate, um, back then, now we could just go on our iPad and calculate it. Or I think it’s really progressed a lot since like in 1990 to 2020, it’s like big on change in little time.

[00:15:26] Camille Morhardt: Were you alive in the 90s? 

[00:15:28] Arnold:  No. No. 

[00:15:29] Camille: Okay. (laughs) I think you’re right, though. I can tell you that, uh, you know, I was in university. I was probably about Harrison’s age when email became a thing. Isn’t that crazy?  You guys, I think, have all been born in the age of the internet, so very different, very different growing up with it, I would assume. 

[00:15:55]  Arnold:  Yeah.

[00:15:57] Harrison: Actually there’s a couple more things I want to say: we’ve talked about all these like competitions and really advanced topics, like encryption, password cracking and that type of thing.  And I just kind of like to point out how like relatable, what it is like, even though it sounds lofty and over complicated, like it affects us in our everyday life. Like just a couple of weeks ago, like someone tried to hack my Instagram, they got through like a really complex password, which will happen to be like, These trigger would just like play off of cheeseburger with just a bunch of numbers, random capitalizations involved, like someone’s somehow made you guess that password.

And the only reason why, I still have access to my Instagram account accounts because I had dual factor authentication turned on. And because of it, I got a notification someone from, I think it was like Oklahoma or somewhere down there and IP from there, was trying to hack my Instagram account. I tried to sign in and it was just kind of like a reality check for me and just how relatable it is for everyone.

[00:16:50] Heidi: Just like Harrison said, how it’s relatable and how you can see a security in everyday life, I think the transition you have to make to just see behind the scenes of how things really are for example, going from desktop, just looking at it, to see behind the terminal. And then if you see a website, do you see the HTML behind it or from running programs to writing them?

I think like this transition is not only important, just if you want to be in that area–because it is really fun and important–but also just so you could protect yourself and you know, what’s out there. 

[00:17:23] Camille Morhardt: I agree. 

[00:17:25] Priyam Biswas: Yeah, I’ll just add that. Uh, when we were kids, we were told that to be aware of the strangers, but these days it’s more like we ever have the be aware of cyber strangers, because we are exposed to so many now my platforms.  So it’s important to know a bit about how to protect your privacy on your devices.

[00:17:44] Camille Morhardt: Yeah. And there’s not really an option of not participating online anymore, if you really want access to sort of multiple opportunities and education and other things. So it’s not so simple as close the lid, right? It’s more like you have to be able to navigate some of the threats that can be.

[00:18:03] Priyam Biswas:  It’s also important for them as well to know like their privacy is also at risk.

[00:18:09] Camille Morhardt: Yeah. And once it’s online, boy, that’s going to be out there for potentially ever, you know, so. Thanks you guys. I really appreciate your   time. Thanks so much for joining the podcast.

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