If you see any of these on your kid’s computer, give them a hug.

National Crime Agency posted scaring parents about tools that help understand how the internet works.
If you find these on your kid’s computer then be thankful they’re interested in how the internet works instead of being a mindless, constantly tracked consumer in training.

According to the internet today, the Walsall Council, tucked somewhere up in the midlands north of Birmingham and east of Wolverhampton, is warning parents to call the cops on their children if they have any hacking things.

If you find any of this software on kiddo’s machine, do not be alarmed, and do not alert the authorities. It is technology, not witch craft. Your child is not in a cult. She or he isn’t about to hack into GCHQ. They do have a keen interest in understanding how the internet works. Don’t put them on a watch list, give them a hug.

The Tor Browser is great for staying anonymous and private online and is helpful for understanding how your identity exists on internet networks. Great for researching assignments without being constantly tracked and monitored by companies who’s primary interest is praying on young people’s insecurities to sell more crap. Your kid has it? Fabulous.

Virtual machines are great for learning modern computing without having to, say, by a separate computer for each operating system you want to try out. If you’re going to learn about how systems work, virtual machines are a necessary tool to load them and explore them. It’s amazing that Virtual Machines would be seen as evil while it seems everyone loves a Raspberry Pi. Both are great for learning and hacking (which is learning). If your kid is spinning up VMs to learn how different kinds of Linux distros work, ask them if they need more monitors. They’ll say yes. Awesome.

Kali Linux is a penetration testing operating system that comes with a lot of different tools pre-installed. Having this doesn’t render one a hacker. You still need to learn how they all work (and often don’t work) and in what context they’re even useful. It’s great for learning about security. If your kid has this, there’s a good chance they saw Mr. Robot and wanted to see what that OS with the dragon logo was about, and then got bored when they found that in fact it’s not an incredibly user friendly thing. Still, it means they’re interested in how things work, and son’t work. It means they’re probably more cautious on how to use the internet than you are and you should ask them for advice on how not to not get attacked or have someone steal your online banking credentials. They are both the hero you want and the hero you need. Amazing.

If your kid has a Wifi Pineapple in there backpack then you should check out if your credit card has been used to buy anything else online, because you can’t just go to the local PC World and pick one up with the lunch money. These are for interrogating WiFi networks and the devices connected to them. Tell them to harden you’re home’s network and give their school’s probably crappy network an audit for extra credit. If your kid is this interested in security, buy them one of these for Christmas or their birthday or for Halloween. At the very least, it’ll make a nice conversation piece in the room.

Discord is an online chat platform with loads of channels, a lot of them about gaming or other useless nonsense. It’s fairly secure by design, open source and has great voice and video functionality, but there’s no reason you should view it any differently than you’d view your kid being on WhatsApp or Instagram or SnapChat ot TikTok or Reddit or whatever. Online communities all have their advantages and dangers. If your kid is online talking to strangers, understand the issues around that, work with them to stay safe while they investigate their interest in security and computers.

Metasploit can be useful for hacking, but like having Kali Linux, it doesn’t make hacking “simple.” Sort of like how owning a stove doesn’t make duck flambe simple. It scans computers and systems for potential vulnerabilities and gives the user reports on areas that may be worth checking out. If your kid has this installed, they are checking out how things work and learning the fundamentals on what is the difference between a secure configuration and the opposite, and all the ways things are broken. Encourage this kind of behavior. It will make them more cautious when they’re other networks or accessing things online because they’ll understand how weak it all is underneath.

The internet trains people to be consumers, and it starts on it when they’re young. To click, download, install and trust. Blindly, trust. To click past Terms of Use agreements, allow the cookies, accept the targeted advertising, and share, share, share. It penalizes those who use privacy settings with ostracism. It demands “real name policies” and encourages young people toward promoting narcissistic, false perceptions of themselves online. If you’re lucky enough to have a kid who’s interested in the underlying mechanisms of this ugliness, then you should give yourself a pat on the back. You raised a kid who might just be resilient enough to survive the shit storm their parent’s generation (your generation) networked together and dishes to them ever hour on different sized screens.

If you’re kid has hacking tools, don’t turn them over to the cops. Give them a hug. Find other hacking groups. Or help them start one. The only chance kids will have in fixing this mess if they understand how to see all the ways that it’s broken.