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Knowing the Password
asdfee

Last week my eleven-year-old son’s yahoo mail account was hacked.  Ben’s on Facebook and doesn’t e-mail very much, so fortunately his list of contacts was small.  Because he doesn’t have any bank accounts or credit cards, I guess I’ve procrastinated explaining to him the importance of having a reasonably complex password you change often

If you’re a parent who hasn’t done this yet.  Do it now. Believe me, you do not ever want to see to see the look on an eleven year old boy’s face when he discovers his identity attached to thousands of e-mails offering to introduce people around the world to his “beautiful lady friends.”

One thing I discovered this week, however, is that I am a significantly different parent after three and a half months of coding lessons.

If this had happened last year, I probably would have shared my son’s sudden picture of the world as a cryptic, chaotic place filled with evil geniuses programming bots that inexplicably burrow their way into your private, vulnerable data.  I would have soldered up the parental controls, because that’s all I would have known to do, and I probably would have done everything I could to protect my son’s innocence and to continue doing it for as long as possible.

But because of our family Code Year pledge, I decided, instead, this would be a good week to review what we’d learned about randomization programs. From what we already knew, it was easy to see how someone with just elementary programming skills could spout out enough random letters or numbers in under an hour to crack the accounts of people who still believed that they could easily protect their data with a simple memorable word or a birthdate.

Now I’m wondering if in protecting my son’s “innocence,” what I really would have been protecting was his ignorance, and mine.

We’ve grown up in a society that thinks that teaching people how to use software is digital literacy. But in the three months since I’ve started learning core-programming skills, I am being hit with the full on obvious truth that this is pretty much the same as if we were teaching people how to read without teaching them how to write.

That’s the password to the next level.


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