Hacker U: Program prepares students, hackers for cybersecurity jobs

NEW YORK — Every week, a group of teenagers and 20-somethings dressed in hoodies gets together in a tiny room on a college campus and plug in their laptops. They turn up pulsing electronic funk music, order pizza and begin furiously hacking into computer networks.

But they’re not shadowy criminals: They’re students training to become “white-hat” hackers, experts to help business and government agencies protect their data from cyberattacks that have become an almost daily occurrence.

“It’s the new espionage. Spies operate from behind keyboards now,” says Evan Jensen, a senior at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and one of the leaders of the Hack Night events where about two dozen students hone their hacking skills.

Since actual hacking is illegal, the students can’t just sneak into a Web page and poke around for learning’s sake. So industry experts, professors and the school’s very own “Hacker In Residence,” Dan Guido, collaborate to create exercises that expose the students to real-world hacking scenarios.

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Hack Night happens every Wednesday.