NSA’s Newest Recruiters: Teaching Kids to Be East German Stasi
FromCyber/Space/War: Danger Room reports newest recruiters for NSA reside on their kids page. Yes, there exists a kids page. The article "NSA's Newest Recruiters: Cartoon-Leopard Twins," relates how the"...surveillance and cryptology crew at NSA has the right online companions for you: Cy and Cyndi, a pair of anthropomorphic snow leopards now kickin' it with the CryptoKids, the Puzzle Palace's team of cartoon animal hackers...". Cy and Cyndi are known as the Cybertwins wear gaming headgear, talk into hands-free mobile devices and teach youth about proper online hygiene. This would just seem squirrelly if this kind of youth campaign weren't so scary?
NSA’s Newest Recruiters: Cartoon-Leopard Twins
Dudes and dudettes: You know what’s totally radical? Reading your neighbors’ e-mail! So don’t you wanna be a junior National Security Agency deputy?
If so, the surveillance and cryptology crew at NSA has the right online companions for you: Cy and Cyndi, a pair of anthropomorphic snow leopards now kickin’ it with the CryptoKids, the Puzzle Palace’s team of cartoon animal hackers. Known as the CyberTwins and unveiled by NSA yesterday, Cy and Cyndi wear gaming headgear, talk into their hands-free mobile devices, and teach youths about proper online hygiene, all on the NSA website’s kids page, which actually exists.
Arriving in time for (the second half of) National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the CyberTwins have a backstory to appeal to military kids: Their mom is a government engineer, their dad is an Army computer scientist, and they “love to talk with other kids who love computers and cyber space as much as they do.”
That fits them right in with the other CryptoKids — a goateed turtle named T-Top whose uncle works for a computer manufacturer, Sergeant Sam the eagle who joined the military out of high school — who guide real-live youth through online crypto-themed puzzles and brainteasers. (Only one thing’s missing from the CryptoTwins’ rollout: cybersecurity tips for the underage.)
All this is a reminder that the most informative element of any spy agency’s website is its Kiddie Korner, where spycraft meets the schoolyard for an awkward, barely appropriate encounter. The CIA offers a world-explorer videogame starring Carmen Sandiego–esque junior officer Ava Shoephone, a trenchcoated operative who throws out trivia questions from the agency’s World Factbook.
The National Counterterrorism Center introduces you to “your NCTC friends,” Becker the Eagle and Little Lady Liberty. And the FBI has games — represented by an icon of the old Nintendo cartridges — like Special Agent Undercover, in which grade-school kids disguise themselves with mustaches to fool people.
As Noah Shachtman wrote a couple of years ago, only the government knowshow earnest or how absurd these sites are intended to be. They do, however, inculcate the message that a career in spycraft is totally extreme. “Cryptology is making and breaking codes. It’s so cool,” NSA’s kids pageexplains. “You might be part of the next generation of America’s codemakers and codebreakers.” Then again, is a kid precocious enough to spend time on a surveillance and crypto agency’s website really going to be impressed by a snow leopard with a BlueTooth in her ear?