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What is Hacking?

Hacking is unauthorized attempts to bypass the security mechanisms of an information system or network. Computer hacking is the practice of modifying computer hardware and software to accomplish a goal outside of the creator's original purpose. In a less technical language, it is an act by which a hacker, sitting from a remote unknown location, breaks into a computer system - an individual user's computer or an organization's server. A computer can be hacked even when it is powered off, as long as the router or modem through which that computer is connected to the Internet, is running.

People who engage in computer hacking activities are referred as hackers. A hacker is someone involved in computer security or insecurity, specializing in the discovery of exploits in systems with the objective of exploitation (bad intention) or prevention (good intention), or in obtaining or preventing unauthorized access to systems through skills, tactics and detailed knowledge.

Most hackers misuse their deeper knowledge of Information Technology for damaging purposes. The hackers are capable to view and access files on the target computer, steal personal information, change an organization's financial data, break security codes to gain unauthorized network access, or conduct other destructive activities. They can alter your website content leading to mis-representation. A hacker can even act as a detective for a business organization by furnishing the organization with data stolen from their competitors. Some businesses who partake in dirty-competition, can even go to the extent of hiring a professional hacker to destroy their competitor's computer system or cause disruption of business activity. There are also social crusaders who hack into government systems to steal sensitive information and act as whistle blowers, exposing corruption, civil rights violation, or violation of international law by national governments. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is an example of a social crusader.

However, there are ethical hackers too, who engage in fool-proofing critical IT systems from other hackers. Such ethical hackers are employed by companies, especially by banks and financial institutions (whose systems are prime attack targets), as part of their technical support staff. These hackers use their skills to find flaws in the company's security system so that they can be repaired quickly. In many cases, this type of computer hacking helps prevent identity theft and other serious computer-related crimes.

Computer hacking can also lead to other constructive technological developments, since many of the skills developed from hacking apply to more mainstream pursuits. For example, former hackers Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson went on to create the UNIX operating system in the 1970s. This system had a huge impact on the development of Linux, a free UNIX-like operating system. Shawn Fanning, the creator of Napster, is another hacker well known for his accomplishments outside of computer hacking.

A hacker, after successfully invading a system, parks a virus or a spy ware on the target computer. This virus then begins to work and help the hacker in various ways, such as - gathering information from the target computer and transmitting it to the hacker's computer, causing destruction of target computer by deleting or altering files, running memory intensive programs which will hog the target computer's resources (memory and processor) so as to make it slow, etc.

What is a Virus or Spyware?

In computer parlance, a virus is a small program that makes its way into a target computer and auto starts whenever the target computer is powered on. These viruses can enter into your system through a malicious free software that you may have downloaded from an unknown website, or through an email that you would have opened, or the hacker explicitly gaining access to your computer and installing the virus there.

With hackers increasingly on the prowl, developing a secure website and keeping it protected from attacks is a big challenge today for website developers and server administrators. Every other day hackers are coming up with new ways of attacking web sites, web servers and even the entire internet network.

For individual users who are interested in protecting their home computer against malicious hackers, investing in a good firewall and anti-virus software is highly recommended. It is also a good idea to check your software programs for updates on a regular basis. For example, Microsoft offers a number of free security patches for its Operating System and also for the Internet Explorer browser. Firefox too, regularly updates its browser.

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About the Author
Rajeev Kumar
CEO, Computer Solutions
Jamshedpur, India

Rajeev Kumar is the primary author of How2Lab. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur with several years of experience in IT education and Software development. He has taught a wide spectrum of people including fresh young talents, students of premier engineering colleges & management institutes, and IT professionals.

Rajeev has founded Computer Solutions & Web Services Worldwide. He has hands-on experience of building variety of websites and business applications, that include - SaaS based erp & e-commerce systems, and cloud deployed operations management software for health-care, manufacturing and other industries.

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