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Hacking is the act of using technical skills to exploit cybersecurity defenses. A hacker can use these skills to gain unauthorized access to computers, networks, computing systems, smart devices and even internet of things systems. Hackers may take up hacking as a profession (ethical hackers) or they can be criminals who gain illegal access and steal sensitive information for financial, political or personal gains.

Hackers are highly skilled at hiding their attack techniques to go undetected by cybersecurity software and IT teams. This makes it difficult for companies and individuals to protect themselves from attacks. However, there are many steps everyone can take to stay safe. For example, never click or open links in unsolicited email or text messages and always shred documents that contain personal information before throwing them away. Also, always keep your operating system, applications and smart devices up to date with the latest security patches.

Many people think of a lone rogue hacker in a dark basement but the reality is far more complex. Hacking is now a multibillion dollar industry with highly sophisticated attack methods that can go unnoticed by cybersecurity software and even the most knowledgeable IT professionals.

Most commonly, hackers are motivated by financial gain. This can include stealing passwords, gaining unauthorized access to bank accounts and credit cards or selling this information on the dark web. A second motivation is street cred and burnishing one’s reputation in hacker subculture. And finally, there are political or personal reasons for hacking – for example, getting revenge on someone or something that has wronged you.