At DEF CON, one of the world’s largest hacking conferences, hackers clad in black hoodies made headlines last year when they exposed an array of structural vulnerabilities in voting technology, successfully hacking into every voting machine they attempted to breach. This year’s DEF CON kicks off Friday in Las Vegas, and hackers will again have access to dozens of pieces of equipment — voting machines and pollbooks widely used in U.S. elections, including several models they haven’t previously attempted to crack. Children as young as 5 will compete to hack election results websites, and DEF CON has partnered with children’s hacking organization r00tz Asylum to award prizes to the first and youngest kids to breach the sites and hack equipment.
Jake Braun, a former White House liaison for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told ABC News that the conference decided to invite young hackers because it would be a “waste of time” to demonstrate that cybersecurity experts can hack election results reporting sites.
“These websites are so easy to hack we couldn’t give them to adult hackers — they’d be laughed off the stage,” Braun told ABC News. “They thought hacking a voter website was interesting 20 years ago. We had to give it to kids to actually make it challenging.”