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Hacking is the act of manipulating a computer system or software to achieve an advantage over other users. The term gained notoriety in the 1990s, when hackers became infamous for high-profile cybercrimes and arrests. This period also saw the first-ever Distributed Denial of Service attacks, and the U.S. Department of Defense and International Space Station systems were breached by a 15 year old boy (who was later convicted).

While some hackers are purely criminal in their intentions, others use their skills for more altruistic reasons. These include earning street cred within the hacker subculture by leaving their mark on websites they vandalize, or carrying out corporate espionage to gain an advantage over competitors. Nation states sometimes employ hackers to gather intelligence on other countries, or for political purposes such as interfering with elections and accessing sensitive government documents. Other hackers are motivated by anger, and seek to gain revenge on individuals or institutions they feel wronged them. These hackers are known as hacktivists.

Hacking is not for everyone, and even the best hackers can make mistakes. For example, if a hacker spies on a spouse and is caught, the relationship may end in disaster. Additionally, it’s illegal to hack a computer without authorization, and even “white hat” hackers are still responsible for any damages caused by their attacks. For these reasons, we recommend learning a more legitimate skill, such as programming or web development, rather than attempting to hack for fun.