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Hacking is the process of gaining access to computers, phones, tablets, IoT devices, networks and computing systems by breaching or exploiting weaknesses in security measures. The weakness may be technical in nature, such as a software flaw, or social, such as convincing a person with privileged access to click on malicious links or reveal personal information. Hackers may be motivated by curiosity, competition and/or the adrenaline rush of breaking into impenetrable systems. They often boast about their accomplishments on social media, creating a competitive community and raising awareness of hacking risks.

The term “hacking” gained traction in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that hackers became notorious with high-profile cybercrimes and arrests. Movies like Tron and WarGames introduced the public to the concept of hacking as an addictive activity, while teenagers such as Jonathan James and Adrian Lamo became known for their ability to crack into computer systems at companies including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Security Pacific Bank and Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Ethical hacking (also known as penetration testing) helps businesses discover and fix vulnerabilities before cybercriminals take advantage of them. By conducting regular ethical hacking exercises, businesses can remain ahead of hackers and prevent their systems from being breached by criminals attempting to steal sensitive data or launch other types of cyber attacks.