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What is a Hacker?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term hacker has a double meaning within the field of computing. It can be an expert computer programmer who creates complex software and hardware. These hackers are experts in the field of computing and have achieved a certain elite status within their field. The other commonly known meaning of the word is someone who breaks into computer security networks for his own purpose.

The media has perpetuated the more exciting connotation of the term with films and books on the subject. Films such as War Games portray breaking into the Pentagon’s security system as similar to playing a computer game. A film about the computer hacker designing a software system would probably not do very big business at the box office.

A person who breaks into systems primarily to steal is not regarded as a computer expert, although she can be. A hacker within the professional world of computing is regarded as a professional computer expert. In the professional computing world, she can be a computer and network security expert. She can also be a highly skilled software programmer or a hardware modifier. The type who breaks into bank accounts or a company’s network does exist, but the meaning is entirely different from that of a professional hacker.

The stereotypical image of a computer hacker, as portrayed by the media, is one of a shadowy figure, alone at a computer, stealing secrets and money. This type of computer hacking can bring rewards, but it can also bring huge fines and prison sentences. Thanks to the media, the average person is likely most familiar with this definition.

It is true that computer crime is on the increase, but it mainly takes the form of computer fraud. People are duped into giving out their bank and personal details after receiving bogus emails. This is not computer hacking, as it does not involve an attempt to break into a computer’s software system.

In many cases, it is not very difficult to gain access to someone’s email password. There are many Internet sites that claim to be able to gain access for a fee, but these sites usually work by sending bogus emails asking the recipient to verify passwords for security reasons. This is not real computer hacking.

A real hacker in the field of computer security is someone employed to stop any unauthorized access to a network’s security system, so when someone says that she has this job, it is not necessarily a bad thing. She may be able to help upgrade a computer instead of breaking into it.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon997397 — On Jan 02, 2017

This is unbelievable. A hacker is someone who creatively solves problems. When did we become criminals?

By anon261312 — On Apr 15, 2012

Microsoft has made it easy to copy just about anything. Copy/Paste, sound recordings, etc.

If it were not for people shrinking down the size of videos through video/audio compression techniques, I don't think that everyone would be walking around with cell phones and iPods, droids, etc., with small screens and nice video.

That meant hacking DVDs and compressing videos by various ways and means. At the same time, I feel bad for the movie industry. Out of the $17 for an audio CD, the artist received about $1, and the person who wrote the lyrics to the songs received very little if anything for their efforts, traditionally.

By anon135383 — On Dec 18, 2010

I can clarify for you what is hacking. How to do it carefully and not illegally break the network system is easy, but to secure it is hard. but depending on your skills so you must learn how to secure, then how to break it.

To learn breaking it is the best way of knowing how to secure since there are many hackers using their skills for their personal interest to become rich. Yes, all hackers want to become rich and it is pretty easy but the term "hacker" is a thing by which a person deals with a great knowledge in computing skills. Thank you!

By anon129741 — On Nov 24, 2010

start out learning how to run basic computer programs such as java, c, c++, otherwise you're not really learning how to become a hacker.

By anon83978 — On May 13, 2010

Best way to learn how to hack is to get an education.

By anon79769 — On Apr 24, 2010

is hacking legal? are hackers actually born with the knowledge or is there a place to learn it? i am quite good at the computer but how to learn to hack? Not for illegal use. Not interested to go to jail.

By menace007 — On Apr 04, 2010

Get a MacBook if you want to hack, then a software program called VMWare Fusion3 installed on it, then you can go right into any (Windows- Based Computers) and all kinds of others are compatible: RED, Linux, WindowsServer2003, vista, seven --tons.

they keep you up to date as every system(s) evolve/advance/progress/updates.

By shahbazp37 — On Feb 23, 2010

Give me some tricks of hacking.

By naveedmz — On Jul 30, 2009

please i read your topics. i am also interested in this subject so please guide me as early as possible.

By anon36987 — On Jul 16, 2009

please i read your topics. i am also intersted in this subject so please guide me as early as possible

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