What is a Hacker?

You have seen the word "hacker" appear in different contexts. You have seen it used to describe a cybercriminal. Moreover some companies proudly claim that they employ no hackers while only hiring trained software developers. In some articles the term hacker has a positive connotation. What is a hacker?

"Hacking tends to be a misunderstood topic, and the media likes to sensationalize, which only exacerbates this condition. Changes in terminology have been mostly ineffective--what's needed is a change in mind-set. Hackers are just people with innovative spirits and an in-depth knowledge of technology. Hackers aren't necessarily criminals…" This quote was taken from page 451 of Hacking The Art of Exploitation 2nd Edition.

To paraphrase Eric S. Raymond, a hacker is someone who has technical knowledge, enjoys solving problems, and overcomes his/her own personal limitations. (The source was http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html#what_is.)

Page xv of Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks by Kyle Rankin says that hackers were originally motivated by curiosity (many years ago) but now they are motivated by profit.

According to Hacking for Dummies (page 8), a hacker is someone who enjoys tinkering with technology, but "[i]n recent years, hacker has taken on a new meaning: someone who maliciously breaks into systems for personal gain. Technically, these criminals are crackers (criminal hackers)."

There are two definitions in an older CompTIA Linux+ book: "1. An individual who is skilled at using or programming computers and who enjoys using these skills in constructive ways. Many Linux programmers consider themselves hackers in the sense of the term. 2. A cracker…This use of the term is more prevalent in the mass media, but it's frowned upon in the Linux community." This quote was taken from page 532 of CompTIA Linux+ Complete Study Guide by Roderick W. Smith published in 2010 by Sybex.

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