The Jargon File (www.science.uva.nl/~mes/jargon/) defines a hacker as "a person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary . . . one who programs enthusiastically . . . an expert or enthusiast of any kind".
"Hacker" is a 1960s' computer industry term for programmers, but in recent years it has popularly come to represent people who break into computer systems. Despite the protests of the terminology purists, that's how most people use the word today.
The hackers you'll meet in this article are members of 2600 Australia, a loosely-organised association of people who share interests in computer security - and how to get around it. They spend much of their time prowling the Net, looking for vulnerable systems, probing for cracks in their defences, and seeing just what possibilities exist for exploitation. For hacking purists, the aim of the game is to find these vulnerabilities as an exercise and a display of one's skills, not necessarily to do anything malicious to a compromised system.
2600 member poppy says, "Hacking is the art of manipulating systems to perform in a manner which they were not designed to do," and most other members see the development of skills and knowledge as the main point of the exercise. However, there are also some hackers with darker motives. That's why it's important to know a bit about Internet security, and groups such as 2600 Australia can be surprisingly helpful in your quest for network safety.
Who are the hackers?
Why do they do it?
Black hats, white hats, grey hats
Security on the Web