If endurance, skill, and strategy were the only classifications required for an activity to be considered sport, competitive hacking could be the newest "sport" gaining popularity.
With Capture the Flag (CTF) competitions popping up all over the world, it won't be long before such competitions become more mainstream. And though there may not be a draft for competitive hackers yet, corporations of all sizes have spent at least $70 billion on cybersecurity this year, and experts say that number will continue to rise.
Not to mention the unemployment rate for information security professionals is less than 0 percent, guaranteeing jobs for the guys you're about to meet
CNBC gained exclusive access to one team, favored to win the 2013 DefCon CTF title, known among hacker circles as the "World Series of hacking."
The Plaid Parliament of Pwning (PPP) team, made up of accomplished information security researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, graciously let our cameras follow them over three days as they tirelessly worked to claim this most coveted prize.
Night before the competition begins
For the last few weeks I've been corresponding with Tyler Nighswander, 22, the captain of PPP, arranging the details of our shoots and schedule at DefCon, which entry into as press with a camera is difficult enough. Tyler has been exceedingly accommodating and vague at the same time, so I keep pestering him with text messages to find out when we can meet the team for a first round of interviews.
(Read more: Hackers' next target: May be the ball game?)
Original plans to follow defending champions Samurai fell through because of some members' privacy concerns. At DefCon, the self-described "oldest, continuous and one of the largest hacker conventions around," concerns about revealing one's identity are more often the norm rather than the exception. So I was thrilled when every member of PPP agreed to let CNBC be a fly on the wall for a few days.
Thurs., Aug. 1, 5 p.m.
Tyler texts to say that the entire team has already started prepping for the CTF, which begins tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., and that we can join them in their Rio Hotel room.
We walk in to a room full of 20-something college students or recent grads, being careful not to trip over the maze of network cables they've assembled to begin their quest. Needless to say, every scarce outlet in the hotel room is being utilized, leaving us begging for one for our lights for the camera.
We start posing questions to understand what they anticipate over the next three days and why DefCon's CTF title is so coveted, when the prize is merely material.
Max Serrano, 19, the youngest of the competition group, says he wouldn't call himself a "hacker" necessarily, although some people would.
"I just like seeing how things work," he says. "We've done a bunch [of CTF competitions]. I actually don't know how many we've done. It's like double-digit numbers. It's mostly just a fun thing. We learn a lot. Going to competitions is just a huge learning experience because there's always something new that they throw at you."