AfricaHackon - Be part of the story

I first heard of AfricaHackon at my previous job where I was working in IT. A colleague and friend told me about a conference about information security that would be held at our building. This was early last year. Being in charge of the network, I would be assisting in setting up internet access for the conference. Now when you’re incharge of the network and you hear you’ll be giving access to your network to a room full of the best “hackers” in the country, you get a bit nervous. I use the word “hackers” in quotes because that’s where I’d like to start.

The hacker mindset

The word hacker has long been desecrated. People immediately picture this antisocial person that is out to break into their computers and steal their data and do other equally nefarious acts. But they are wrong, hacking is an art form, practised by people who push the boundaries of innovation. It’s about having bulbs lighting up in your head as you figure out some new way to make something work. About discovering ways to make things work more efficiently. It’s about finding ways to use things in a way even their creator never imagined. It is about tweaking the firing timing of your spark plugs to make your engine add a bit of power, for car enthusiasts. It’s about creating a new masterpiece in a way that has never been attempted, for painters. It’s about building that robot using random materials, for the hardware enthusiasts. It’s about automating your lights, and electrical gadgets, for the electrical and electronics people.

There’s a little bit of hacking in everyone of us. As you try to piece together that jigsaw puzzle, fill in that crossword, finish that sudoku. We do it all the time. If one sentence can sum up what a hacker is, it would be this:

A hacker is a person who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively circumventing limitations.

Back to AfricaHackon

That day I did end up turning off all the wireless networks that I felt weren’t secure enough…hehe. But I shouldn’t have been worried, these were the good type of hackers. They are the ones that help keep you secure. They help you protect yourself from people who would like to steal your private data. They help your company adopt practices that make it hard for the bad guys. They assist you incase you’ve undergone an attack. They are some of the brightest minds you’ll meet, some help the biggest companies in the country and Africa keep their information secure. Some are still learning. They are drawn from diverse fields and they are on a mission. They want to protect your information, they want to help your bank keep your accounts safe from prying eyes. They want to ensure you can access the internet and make your calls without someone monitoring or listening in. The first phase of this is to build capacity. They are conducting training sessions to train students and spark their interest in the field of information security. They are bringing awareness to companies and the general public on the way to approach security of their systems and data. They plan on building a culture of information security awareness, and to bring up the right skills in the untapped growing generation of brilliant students.

The second AfricaHackon conference

Another avenue is conferences. This July the 31st, they will be hosting the second AfricaHackon conference. Having attended the last one, take it from me that it’s a unique experience that should not be missed. Come watch as these brilliant minds take you through real life happenings in the world of information security. Watch them show how the bad guys can attack your systems and then how to defend against them. This is no ordinary conference. No long boring powerpoints, but interactive demonstrations. I am sure there are some of you who have discovered some interesting ways someone can use all this technology around us. How someone can break into a system. It may only be an idea, but that’s all it takes. The AfricaHackon team is more than happy to help you explore and develop it. The AfricaHackon team wants you to come make a presentation at this conference. You’ll get to be mentored by the best minds in the field. The silver lining is you’ll get to present your ideas to some of the biggest companies in the country who’ll be in attendance. You’ll get to interact with them first hand and have genuine discussions. In attendance will also be major international and local media houses. The ball is in your court.

Submit your papers and ideas to before 30th of May.

Read this page by Sylvia that explains the call for papers very well.

Also feel free to interact with the team on social media through twitter and facebook.

Visit the AfricaHackon site for past presentations and to keep yourself updated.

Be part of the story. And remember, everybody needs a hacker :)