A hacker can be defined as a person who solves problems in clever ways, especially regarding computer programming and hardware engineering. The term is often used to denote "security cracker", since hackers most frequently appear in the news involving computer security breaches.
Hacking may refer to a number of activities, both legal and illegal. These include:
- "Digital lock-picking", or (illegally) breaking into computer systems; this is also referred to as "cracking", and is the most well known form of hacking
- Modifying software or hardware in order to violate copyright law or software licensing agreements (this is also referred to as "cracking" and "piracy")
- Modifying software or hardware for extra functionality or performance
- Creating software or devices to solve problems
- Using an existing computer system in an unusual, clever way to solve a problem
- Staging pranks
Hackers act for a variety of reasons, ranging from curiosity and bragging rights to personal gain or vandalism.
Crackers who act with criminal intent are known as "black hat" hackers. Crackers who don't have a criminal intent (e.g., those paid by software companies to research security issues or investigate new computer viruses) are referred to as "white hat".