Monday, April 28, 2008

Hackerteen -- Internet Blackout (Graphic Novel)

Hackerteen is the name of a new graphic novel, and also the name of a unique educational project in Brazil. The project trains young persons, ages 14 to 19, about computer networks, security, internet businesses, and hacker ethics. The Hackerteen training attempts to solve three significant problems:
— Children wasting time on the Internet, surfing the Web and playing games;
— Children become victims of cybercrimes, and in some cases, committing cybercrimes; and
— The growing need for qualified professionals in the field of computer network security.

A “hacker”, by the way, is defined as anyone who can break in to a computer network, either for fun, or with the intention of committing crimes. What types of crimes? The computer could be shut down, and/or data could be destroyed. Passwords, or sensitive information — such as credit card data— might be stolen and then sold. Or the “hacked” computer might now record your keystrokes, and then send those strokes to the perpetrators. Of course, to save us from these crimes, we need “ethical hackers”, people who understand computer security so profoundly that they can prevent the crimes, or trace the criminals after the fact.

This spy-versus-spy type game has been a problem for a long time: in 1990, a non-fiction book titled The Cuckoo’s Egg, written by the astronomer Clifford Stoll, describes how Stoll tracked down a hacker from Germany.
The real Hackerteen team, led by Marcel Marques, has now produced a graphic novel, in English. The story is about teenagers and the real dangers of the Internet, and how technical expertise can be used help society, instead of harm. The illustrations are top-quality, the characters are realistically depicted, the story is captivating. The hero in this volume is an 18-year-old computer whiz named Yago. At age 12, Yago is spending days and nights in front of his computer screen, and his concerned parents take him to the Hackerteen headquarters for training. Six years later, Yago has become one of the best hackers on the team. The plot thickens as Yago’s parents fall into financial trouble, and Yago is tempted to use his skills to make big money quickly, and illegally.

In Hackerteen (the book), you won’t learn the step-by-step process for breaking in to your bank’s computer system, or how-to spy on your neighbors and friends. Instead, you will find clear descriptions of the perils of modern computing. Most importantly, you — and your teenaged children — will discover positive role models that show how cool it is to learn deeply, to make good choices, and to do the right thing.

Hackerteen: Internet Blackout, Volume 1
by Marcel Marques and the Hackerteen Team
Graphic novel, paperback, 100 pages
Published by O’Reilly, April 2008, $ 19.99

Hackerteen Project, in Brazil