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How The NSA Plans To Recruit Your Teenagers

Published: October 9, 2014
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Source: The Intercept

Kids across America no longer have to wait until college to plan on being a part of the National Security Agency. In fact, they could start preparing for their NSA careers as early as age 13.

The NSA has began sponsoring cybersecurity camps for middle and high school students, agency recruiter Steven LaFountain told CNBC’s Eamon Javers in a recent interview. Six prototype camps launched this past summer, and the NSA hopes to expand the program to some 25 schools and, eventually, to have a presence in schools in all 50 states.

The camps, LaFountain told CNBC, teach “low-level programming… where most cybersecurity vulnerabilities are” and sponsor activities like a “wireless scavenger hunt” in which 10th graders were dispatched to hunt down “rogue access points.” The general idea is to eliminate “threats out there on the Internet”

“The students are really, really into it,” LaFountain added.

This isn’t the first time the NSA has reached out to the youth of America. In 2010, the NSA introduced CryptoKids, animated characters tasked with the vital mission of informing kids about cybersecurity. And unlike Saturday morning cartoons, the CryptoKids are still going strong.

If the NSA wants to give its summer camp program the same longevity, it might think about bulking up the curriculum. Somehow, despite training kids sophisticated techniques to defeat computer and network attacks, the agency’s curriculum is silent on one of the simplest, and highest profile, data beaches in NSA history. “I typically don’t talk to them about” Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked a vast trove of secrets, LaFountain said.

No word yet on if the curriculum offers students an Intro to Executive Order 12333 or gives them spark notes on using FISA warrants to surveil American activists. 

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