Hacking is a broad term used to describe many complex activities wherein the end goal is typically to obtain access to a computer system's servers, database(s), or stored files. This access may be any combination or desired or undesired, and legal or illegal.
Legal and condoned hacking is known as "white hat" hacking, and is used to test the security of a given computer network by hiring an individual or group of individuals to try to break in to it electronically, in order to determine the network's flaws or lack thereof.
Illegal or unwanted hacking is known as "black hat" hacking, however the term "cracking" is often used to describe malicious or malevolent hacking in which the end goal is to cause damage to the integrity of the targeted computers, whether to destroy, copy, or modify files, or possibly to install easy routes back into the system known as "backdoors".
Not all condoned hacking is legal, however. For example, if Jim's friend challenges him to hack or crack into his home computer, and Jim does so, it is still technically illegal despite the consent of his friend. Legal hacking (in the United States of America) needs to be approved with paperwork and status of employment; hobbyist hacking is generally always illegal.
Techniques for hacking vary intensely, and can incorporate activities including, but not limited to, creating pieces of software designed the circumvent (or falsely authenticate) the security in place in a given targeted computer network, creating pieces of hardware designed to do virtually the same thing known as "dongles", social engineering (a favored form of the famous hacker Kevin Mitnick), exploiting known or unknown (and subsequently discovered) bugs or flaws in the software that handles authentication to a given network, and other more obscure and clever methods.
Hacking can also refer simply to toying with computers and other electronic equipment in order to get them to do something they aren't supposed to do. This is the original and most true sense of the word, and is usually done for pleasure, amusement, proof of concept, or simply to exercise the brain. This type of hacking is generally harmless, and can even result in advances in current technology.
Unfortunately, the modern media has given hackers a poor portrayal, typically insinuating or outright stating that they are concerned with malicious destruction of electronic property, or even making accusations of cyber-terrorism. This sort of activity is more realistically descriptive of the cracking community (such as script kiddies), as true hackers do not typically ever hold the intent to cause harm, but engage in the activity for enjoyment, intellectual stimulation, or simply to surmount an obstacle. The goal is usually little more than obtaining access; once inside the system, a hacker's interests rapidly decline, as he or she has no intention to modify, copy, or destroy the files therein.
Hollywood has also given hackers an unrealistic image, portraying fancy graphics and unrealistic execution of the hacking in general. However, some movies have shown true tools or programs that real hackers have been known to use, such as the tool nmap.
Demographical data for true hackers is difficult to obtain, given their usually secretive nature, however the majority of hacking communities (such as 2600) indicate a much greater presence of males than females.
Most of us around the café here are into hacking, although some just like to watch.
He was caught hacking into a major government computer system and is currently pending trial after being arrested that same day.
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