PORTLAND, Maine (Danielle Waugh/NECN) -- A New England college is training students to be the next generation of hackers.

The Cyber Security Cluster at the University of Southern Maine gives students the tools to become "ethical hackers," protecting businesses and the government from attacks.

"Cyber security is all about defending yourself," said student Robert Pariseau, a senior at USM. "In order to defend yourself, you have to know what they're throwing at you."

To understand the importance of their work, the students only have to turn on the news: massive data breaches at major US corporations, hacked emails posted on Wikileaks, accusations that Russians are using cyber attacks to influence the U.S. election.