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11 signs your kid is hacking -- and what to do about it

Roger A. Grimes | July 7, 2016
Here’s how to find out if your child is involved in malicious online activity -- before the authorities do

1. They flat out tell you (or brag about how easy it is to hack)

It may be hard to believe, but many parents hear their children make direct claims about their hacking activity, often multiple times, and blow it off. They either don't know what "hacking" means, or they assume good little Johnny isn't doing anything stupid. Well, they might be.

Most hacking is easy: You read a hack how-to and then do it. Often it's as easy as downloading a tool and pushing the GO button. On TV, hackers are always portrayed as masterminds. In reality, they're usually more ordinary than genius. They read and learn. Persistence is their most outstanding trait.

Kids who get into malicious hacking often feel guilty about crossing the ethical line early on. Telling close friends and even their parents about their newly gained skills can be a way of reaching out and communicating that sense of guilt. Though most don't realize it, they often want their parents to offer guidance at this critical junction. Sadly, most parents and friends who hear these claims and confessions don't know what to make of them, leaving their child or friend to sort out the conflict on their own. The results aren't always for the best.

2. They seem to know a little too much about you

Kids who hack often start with those closest to them: Their parents. If your child seems to know something they could know only by reading your email or other online activities, your radar should be up.

It's not uncommon for hacking kids to monitor their parents' online activities, usually in hopes of capturing admin passwords or to learn how to turn off any anti-hacking devices, such as firewalls and parental controls, that you may have set up. (And you thought the monitoring was the other way around.) But then curiosity gets the best of them and they end up reading their parents' emails or social media chats.

I've had more than one parent tell me they couldn't figure out how their kids were getting around parental blocks, until they looked into the logs and saw that their parental blocks were being disabled and re-enabled frequently. Or their child made a snide remark or alluded to something they could have known only by reading a parent's confidential communications. If your hacking kids seem to know more about you than you've shared, it's a sign. Pay attention.

3. Their (technical) secrecy is off the charts

Every teenager wants 100 percent confidentiality on their online activities, regardless of whether they are hacking. But sophisticated protection, including encryption of all communications, files, folders, chats, and applications, may be a sign there's something else going on besides garden-variety teen secrecy.


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