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Hacking is the act of illegally bypassing computer security protocols to gain access to private information. It’s a complex issue that requires expert knowledge of programming languages, hardware and computer systems. While hackers can be portrayed as villainous characters in popular media, most have an extensive understanding of computer technology and a desire to solve issues. They can be divided into groups based on their motivations and intentions, with black hat hackers using their skills for evil and white hat hackers using their expertise to fix vulnerabilities, strengthen security systems, catch criminals and even save lives.

The term “hacking” originated in the 1960s at MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club, where members would modify their high-tech train sets to expand their functionality. They later moved on to computers, experimenting with IBM 704s to explore the limits of what the machines could do and how they might be improved. It’s from this subculture that modern hacking grew into the multibillion-dollar industry it is today.

A few years ago, a 16-year-old named Jonathan James gained notoriety for hacking into the websites of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the New York Times and Microsoft to steal software code. He became the first juvenile to be incarcerated for hacking. Later, Adrian Lamo hacked into the systems of several major organizations and was arrested in 2003.

Most hacking is conducted by adolescents known as Script Kiddies, who have a childish sense of mischief and enjoy messing around with websites and networks for fun. To protect against hackers, it’s important to keep operating systems and software updated and avoid sites without security credentials. It’s also recommended to learn advanced Google search techniques to access the deep web–the parts of the Internet that aren’t indexed by Google and include exposed personal information, username and password lists, and vulnerable servers.