Hacker – definition or meaning

A hacker is somebody who gains unauthorized access to computers to access data by breaking password codes. To hack means to beak a password code, hence the name of the person. Anybody who deliberately gains access to a protected computer system is a hacker. People hack into systems either to gather information, shut down systems, or simply for the thrill of it.

We also use the term for somebody who is a skillful or enthusiastic computer user or writer.

Before computer systems existed, the term referred mainly to somebody who cut things roughly, i.e., with heavy blows.

For example, what does it mean if I say: “To walk through the jungle, you need to be a good hacker.” It means you need to know how to hack through the undergrowth with, for example, a machete.

According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, a hacker is:

“1. A person who uses computers to gain unauthorized access to data. 2. An enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer or user. 3. A person or thing that hacks or cuts roughly.”

Hacker – old English word

The name ‘hacker,’ meaning a ‘chopper, cutter,’ dates back to thirteenth century England. It also meant somebody who makes hacking tools.

In 1975, the term acquired the meaning of somebody who acquires unauthorized access to computer records. The meaning ‘somebody who works like a hack at writing and experimenting with software’ emerged in the 1960s.

This article focuses on the term when it refers to somebody who tries to break into computer systems.

People who penetrate computer systems illegally are involved in hackingHacking is a white collar crime. In other words, it is a crime by people who work behind a desk or with computers.

Along with e-mail bombs and denial-of-service attacks, hacking is a type of cyber attack. An e-mail bomb involves sending thousands of e-mails to one account holder so that it overwhelms the system. The aim is to crash the e-mail server.

Hacker - definition and examples
The term ‘hacker’ acquired the meaning of someone who illegally hacks into computer systems in the 1970s.

Hacker – computing expert

A hacker is a person who uses computer or networking skills to overcome a technical problem.

Although the word may refer to any person with technical skills, it usually refers to people who break into systems illegally. Specifically, computer networks or systems.

Often, hackers break into systems to commit crimes. They may, for example, damage or bring down systems, or steal people’s identities. Holding systems hostage and demanding a ransom is becoming increasingly more common.

In many cases, hackers use their skills to steal people’s identities.

TechTarget says the following on its website regarding the term:

“The term hacker has historically been a divisive one, sometimes being used as a term of admiration for an individual who exhibits a high degree of skill, as well as creativity in his or her approach to technical problems. However, the term is more commonly applied to an individual who uses this skill for illegal or unethical purposes.”

There is, however, such thing as an ethical hacker. ‘Ethical hacking,’ better known as ‘penetration testing,’ involves purposeful “hacking” into a computer network by a qualified person for purposes of testing a system’s security.

Video – the life of a hacker

This NOVA PBS video explains what it is like to be a hacker. In fact, they may not be who you think they are. The video begins by asking whether you think hackers are burglars, inventors, spies, or vandals.

Did you know many people are hackers and they don’t even know it?