Kathy Gibson reports from CeBit in Hannover – To be safe from cyber surveillance, learn how to be a hacker so you can master the technology.

This is the advice that whistle-blower Edward Snowden offers to children growing up in a connected world where it’s relatively easy to become victims of cyber surveillance and hacking.

Actually, the answer Snowden gave to a request for advice to kids about how they can ensure the technology won’t be used against them was a lot more succinct. “Learn magic,” he says.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic; and the masters of a technology are those that understand it. That is why hackers have such ability.”

The reality is much more pedestrian: people embrace dangerous behaviours that place us at risk, and are likely to cause harm to us and to our children’s future, he says.

“When we speak about control, you need to understand that the only way you will be able to protect yourselves is if you understand the technology. And I don’t think you can understand the technology unless you manipulate it, change it, and break its rules.”

We tend to conflate the idea of hacking with stealing, Snowden says. “Yes, that is one expression of it. But hacking is about learning how a technology functions so well that you can control it in new and unexpected ways.”