Spy Kids: The NSA Is Looking for the Next Generation of Sneaky Geeks

Crypto Cat<a href="http://www.nsa.gov/kids/bios/bios00001.shtml">NSA.gov</a>

Although the National Security Agency is incredibly secretive and could probably care less what you think, it does have an interest in helping our kids become great mathematicians. The NSA is the largest employer of mathematicians in the country, so, the agency explains, it is “critically dependent on the continuing development of first-class American mathematicians.”

Enter the CryptoKids, the NSA’s band of codemaking and codebreaking cartoon characters. There’s Cyndi, one half of the CyberTwins, a cat with braces, two-tone hair, and what may be Google Glass. Her advice for online-savvy kids: “Mom says that once something is out on the Internet, it will be there forever, and ‘might come back to haunt us one day.'” Her brother Cy, a malware victim, also values his digital privacy and security: “The stuff on my computer is really important to me, and I don’t want anyone getting in and messing it up again!”

The CryptoKids. NSA

The CryptoKids gang also includes Crypto Cat, Decipher Dog, Rosetta Stone, and T.Top, a goateed programmer turtle. Their “advisor” is a fatigue-wearing eagle named CSS Sam (CSS stands for Central Security Service), just in case you forgot whom the NSA works for.

The characters also star in the NSA’s outreach to schools in the Washington, D.C. area through the agency’s MEPP Speakers Bureau. Some of the talks and classes offered actually sound pretty cool: Kids can get an introduction to cryptology by decoding instructions on a map to find buried treasure, or learn about ciphers in “Cryptanalysis 101.” The NSA will even come to your school’s career day: “Students are introduced to the variety of careers at NSA, emphasizing the technical skills of the workforce and inviting the students to consider activities they like to do now, and how this may fit in to a future career.”

Math is hard (though American kids are getting better at it). So perhaps your kid could benefit from a little math help from the big, brotherly geeks at the NSA. Or maybe, like Will Hunting, they’ll think better of becoming a CryptoKid.

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.