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Hacking is a broad term that refers to using technical skills to exploit cybersecurity weaknesses. Hackers are highly skilled in overcoming limitations in software and hardware systems, using stealthy methods that go undetected by cybersecurity teams. Hacking can be used for good, like identifying and addressing security issues, or for bad, such as illegally accessing information, installing dangerous malware, or disrupting the operations of businesses or government agencies.

Hackers are highly skilled in a variety of areas, such as enumeration (searching for open ports, usernames, IP addresses, and hostnames) and exploitation (using tools to gain unauthorized access). They also use advanced search tricks and other methods to find hidden files or exploitable systems. One way they do this is by using a running list of Google queries known as “Google Dorks,” which expose private information.

While popular culture depicts hackers as lone rogues operating from their bedroom, the reality is that hacking is now a multibillion-dollar industry with incredibly sophisticated techniques. Many hackers are employed by large companies or government agencies to test their systems. Others are espionage artists, seeking to steal trade secrets or other intellectual property from competitors. And in some cases, hackers are simply motivated by anger — a desire to get revenge on individuals or organizations that have wronged them.

The ethical hackers, or white hat hackers, are those who seek to exploit vulnerabilities for positive purposes. They may work as security consultants or be employed by the company they’re hacking, and they follow a code of conduct that includes only testing for weaknesses without causing any harm. Other hackers, the black hats, do not follow this code and instead use their skills for illegal purposes. These include stealing credit card or financial information, holding systems for ransom, or carrying out distributed denial-of-service attacks.