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Headlines about hacking, involving our phones, email—you name the system or device—have presented the public with a negative view on the term “hacking,” correlating the act with mischievous or even criminal activity. However, most hackers are not criminals, maintains David Brumley, the director of Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab Security and Privacy Institute. Hackers, he argues, are curious and imaginative professionals who seek a deep understanding of how something works. Here are a few hackers from CyLab explaining why they hack. 

David Brumley

Director of CyLab, Professor of ECE, and faculty advisor to the Plaid Parliament of Pwning

“Hacking is like solving a puzzle. The person who solves it often gains a better understanding of the program than its creator.”

Yuan Tian

Ph.D. student in ECE

“We hack because we care about security, and we want to protect people from potential threats by identifying problems systematically. We hope to educate developers, who will design and implement secure systems, and users, who can avoid being attacked.”

Robert Xiao

Ph.D. student in CS and a member of the Plaid Parliament of Pwning

“Perhaps the simplest answer is that I hack to learn—it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the world of cybersecurity, with the aim of understanding complex computer systems. With better understanding of the security challenges we face, I can develop more secure systems and help colleagues improve their computer security.”