App review by Mark Chen, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2021
Hacker X: Learn Ethical Hacking And Cybersecurity
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Hacker X: Learn Ethical Hacking and Cybersecurity

Static, step-by-step ethical hacking lessons are full of holes

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Grades
9–12
Subjects & Skills
Critical Thinking

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Pros: Ethical hacking will appeal to lots of students and is a great computer literacy skill.

Cons: The installation directions at the time of this review are incorrect, and full installation requires admin privileges.

Bottom Line: This set of static lessons needs more interaction and requires a tech-savvy teacher with full control over the classroom tech.

In a typical classroom, Hacker X would likely be very difficult to use. However, if the setup issues were not an issue, a teacher could have students follow the lessons at their own pace, take the quizzes, and then demonstrate learning in some other way. You could discuss the quizzes as a class or devise ways that students could apply what they've learned from the lessons. 

If ethical hacking is a topic you want to cover, you can use the lessons in the app and then ask kids to create tutorial videos or presentations that showcase what they've learned and teach the skills to someone else. If the students' skill levels are up to it, challenge them to make a more interactive way to learn the material.

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Hacker X teaches ethical hacking, which consists of attempting to get access to computer systems or programs to show their weaknesses. The app consists of step-by-step tutorials that end in quizzes, which allow you to advance to the next lesson. The lessons on hacking require the user to install an operating system emulator, which means the facilitator needs full admin privileges to the devices that students are using. Topics include lessons on Kali Linux, Wi-Fi hacking, credit card hacking, and more. The courses are presented with the intention that users become "white hat" hackers who test systems to find vulnerabilities.

Though Hacker X presents some useful skills, its use is pretty unwieldy, and there is no way to assess whether progress in it actually reflects learning how to hack with a computer. Additionally, just getting the workflow setup that the app requires is likely to be troublesome for most classroom settings. It gets technical very quickly, with little support should something go wrong, assuming the user (or teacher) is even allowed by their school to install third-party, system-level apps. And, at the time of this writing, something does go wrong: The installation instructions in Hacker X do not match the process of actually installing the operating system emulator. In terms of content, Hacker X also doesn't really take advantage of the digital interactive format and would probably work better as a book.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Though the topic is interesting and useful, the required setup and the lack of interaction make it more frustrating than engaging.

Pedagogy

The lessons are just a series of follow-along tutorials capped with multiple-choice quizzes, which doesn't encourage applied learning or creative thinking.

Support

It's not easy to find support if students get stuck.


Common Sense reviewer
Mark Chen Researcher

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