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Generally speaking, hacking is an unauthorized access to a computer, server, device or network. Hackers can use their technical expertise to break into a system and exploit vulnerabilities. This may involve phishing texts, social engineering, malware and brute force attacks.

Hacking techniques have evolved, as the public internet became more widely available. Initially, hacking techniques were designed to exploit the weaknesses of existing programs.

New-style hacking techniques included creating viruses, breaking into systems and stealing information. Oftentimes, these techniques were performed for personal gain.

In the United States, hackers may be subject to up to 15 years in prison for tampering with a computer. The government can also use hackers to gather national intelligence. In some cases, hackers have used their skills to promote political agendas.

In the 1980s, hackers became more popular. Many notable hackers have been convicted of stealing proprietary software. They include Kevin Mitnick, Robert Morris, Kevin Poulsen and Vladimir Levin. The first digital bank heist occurred in this period.

Today, hacking is a multibillion dollar industry. Hackers can be hired to help a business create defenses against cyber threats. Ethical hackers are able to perform penetration testing and detect vulnerabilities. Normally, an ethical hacker must have written permission from the owner of the system.

Several companies have started bug bounty programs. Ethical hackers report weaknesses to the organization. Usually, bug bounty programs reward them with money for finding vulnerabilities.

Hackers may also use malware, viruses, Trojans, backdoors and other tools to exploit a system. These tools are often found on the dark web.