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Inside the mind of a hacker

Posted at 9:44 PM, Apr 17, 2017

Whether its email, credit card info or even the election process, hacking is becoming a part of our digital reality. But for some hackers, it's not about getting that information. It's about protecting yours.

We rarely get to see into the world of "hackers." Turns out it's not as ominous or glamorous as you may think.

At the national collegiate cyber defense competition the nation's top cyber defense professionals try to infiltrate imaginary companies run by students from colleges across the country.

Arsh Chauhan leads the team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"You've got to think like an attacker right?" Chauhan says. "What would an attacker do? How would they do it? What are they looking for?"

It's not always an easy task, and just a glimpse of what work is like for professional hackers. It's a term Chauhan says many people have the wrong idea about.

"Oh a hacker is someone bad in a hoodie sitting in their mom's basement or in China just stealing information so it's really kind of sad," Chauhan says. "We are just people who like to tinker with stuff."

While many would look at a screen like something is broken, hackers see a challenge, something to defend, to fix. So who are the people who think this way?"

We asked Dr. Gregory White who started the competition if there is a hacker profile.

"Right now it is mostly male, absolutely," Dr. White says. "Right now it's predominately Caucasian as well. But that's changing."

As the only woman on the University of Alaska Fairbanks team, Addeline Mitchell knows she may not be what people think of as a hacker, but it doesn't stop her from doing what she loves. She hopes more women and other consider becoming hackers.

Researchers at Peninsula Press found more than 209,000 cyber security jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and postings are up 74% over the past five years. That's why companies like Raytheon and the CIA attend the event.

Chauhan already has his eyes on his dream job.

"There are companies out there they get clients and the clients are like, 'Here, here are our systems, break into them,'" Chauhan says. "So that is something that would be my ideal job. Here are systems, we are paying you, break in."

Going inside the mind of a hacker which is ever moving and changing. Along with our perception of what a hacker really is.

The University of Maryland Baltimore County defeated nine other teams to become 2017 national collegiate cyber defense competition champions.

More than 230 colleges and universities participated in regional competitions leading up to the championship.