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Hacking is the act of gaining unauthorized access to a computer system or device. Typically, this happens by exploiting weaknesses in the system’s security practices or technical weaknesses in the software itself. Hackers can snatch up personal information like passwords or bank account details, or even breach defenses that would normally protect important infrastructure systems.

While some hackers are motivated purely by greed or an insatiable curiosity, others have more radical motivations. For example, members of the hacker group Anonymous are motivated by political and social activism. They promote civil disobedience and unrest by attacking websites, exposing victims’ personal information online and defacing or destroying their websites. These criminals are sometimes referred to as Script Kiddies, an allusion to the fact that many young kids “have fun” hacking and use message boards and social media to brag about their exploits.

The term Hacker has been around for decades and originally had less malicious connotations. It began when personal computers became more widely available and people started tinkering with them. The programmer subculture that developed into the hacker community focused on improving computers. This evolved into a more malicious version of hacking as hackers gained notoriety for creating viruses and breaking into corporate networks to steal data.

Some hackers, known as White Hat Hackers, are hired by companies to test the security of their systems. They often work with incomplete versions of software during development and report back their findings to the developers.