Kids to try hacking US election systems in new DNC contest

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is hosting a competition next week to see if children and teenagers can defend U.S. election systems.

The DNC is partnering with Def Con, a hacking conference in Las Vegas, to host a contest for kids, ages 8 to 16, to see if they can penetrate replicas of the websites used by secretaries of states of publish election results, Wired reported this week.

Cybersecurity expert Brian Markus will design fake websites for 13 different states that are often battleground states during presidential elections.


The young hackers could win a mix of cash and prizes, including $500 from the DNC and some $2000 from other organizations, if they come up with the best defensive strategy to share with the secretaries of states ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Jake Braun, a former official in the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security, is helping to organize the event. Braun had earlier helped organize an event called Voting Village, where adults hacked into different models of voting machines in order to find flaws. Organizers behind the Voting Village event reportedly came up with the idea to have a contest for kids to try something similar.

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“We wanted to figure out how we could use this to our advantage,” DNC chief technology officer Raffi Krikorian told Wired. “Let’s get those lessons back to secretaries of state.”

Braun told the outlet that getting kids involved will emphasize the importance of bolstering election security.

“The hackers would laugh us off the stage if we asked them to do this,” he said.

The report of the competition came days after the White House had five of its top security officials appear during a White House press briefing to discuss their efforts to protect the midterms. 

“The president has specifically directed us to make the matter of election meddling and securing our election process a top priority, and we have done that,” Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAmerica’s divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down German lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs MORE said Thursday in the briefing room.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s directive came on the heels of his widely criticized press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month. The two met in Helsinki just days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking the DNC server during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump drew sharp bipartisan criticism for appearing to side with Putin during the meeting, refusing to condemn the Russian president and his government for interfering in the 2016 elections.

Updated: 2:40 p.m.

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