What is Hacking? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is Hacking? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

What is Hacking?

Imagine a world where sophisticated cyber criminals lurk in the shadows, waiting to strike at vulnerable systems. Sounds like a plot of a suspense thriller, right? But that’s the reality we live in today. With the rise of cybercrime, it’s more important than ever to understand hacking, its history, motivations, and how to protect ourselves.

In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through the world of hacking and equip you with the knowledge you need to stay safe.


  • Hacking involves unauthorized intrusion into computers or networks, often to steal, alter, or destroy information. It can lead to privacy violations and financial losses.

  • People hack for different reasons such as financial gain, political goals, or the thrill of the challenge. Understanding these motivations is key to preventing future cybercrimes.

  • Regular software updates, antivirus software, strong passwords, and careful online behavior can mitigate vulnerabilities and hacking risks.

Don’t become a victim of cybercrime. Protect your devices with the best antivirus software and your privacy with the best VPN service.

Understanding Hacking: Definition and Process

Hacking is an umbrella term that covers activities related to malware and malicious cyberattacks on the public, businesses, and governments. While the traditional view of hackers is that they are lone programmers with serious coding and hardware system modification skills, hackers today are getting more advanced, using sneaky tactics that can slip past cybersecurity software and IT staff. System hacking is when someone uses computers to do things like fraud, invade someone’s privacy, or steal data from companies or individuals.

To better understand this complex world, we’ll dive into the definition of hacking and the general process hackers use to gain unauthorized access to systems. This will help us unravel the motivations behind hacking and the different types of cyber criminals out there.

Defining Hacking

Hacking is a way of breaking into computers and networks by finding and taking advantage of security vulnerabilities. The term has a negative connotation because of its connection to cybercrime. Early hackers were curious to explore, enhance, and push the boundaries of existing programs. However, the primary motives behind hacking today are usually financial gain, corporate espionage, seeking notoriety or respect, and state-sponsored hacking.

The public internet has opened up many doors for hackers, allowing them to get more out of their activities. As a result, hacking techniques have become more advanced, and a variety of types of hackers and hacking have emerged. This evolution has transformed hacking from a teenage prank to a billion-dollar industry, creating a criminal network that develops and sells ready-made hacking tools to those with less technical knowledge, aka “script kiddies”.

The Hacking Process

Hackers look for security weaknesses they can exploit to gain access without authorization. Some of the more common types of cyber-hacking include SQL injection attacks, denial-of-service attacks, zero-day exploits, dictionary attacks, phishing, social engineering, wardriving, Trojans, and man-in-the-middle attacks. Hackers commonly use phishing to try and get someone to give up confidential info, session hijacking to take over an active session token or cookie, DDoS attacks to flood a target system or network with traffic or requests, and brute force attacks to crack passwords or encryption keys.

Protecting yourself from hacking is crucial. Using antivirus and anti-malware programs, staying on top of software updates, having strong passwords, and using HTTPS are all great ways to protect yourself from hacking. Being aware of common hacking techniques and tools can help you fend off cyber attacks and keep your personal and business data safe.

A Brief History of Hacking

The term “hacking” originally referred to a process of chopping or cutting in a not-so-perfect way. The first negative use of the term “hacker” appeared in a Newsweek article talking about a group of teenagers who hacked into the computer systems of big companies. Early hackers were seen as tech-savvy people who wanted to customize and improve things, whereas modern hackers are usually driven by personal gain, like stealing data.

As the internet became widely available, hacking techniques evolved and became more advanced, giving rise to various types of hackers and hacking activities. This shift transformed hacking from a hobby of early computer enthusiasts to a global phenomenon involving cybercrime and hacktivism.

Hacker Motivations: Why People Hack

People hack mainly for financial gain, to make a statement, to spy, or just for the thrill of the challenge. Hackers may be motivated to make money by taking data or money, or by peddling stolen data or services. They may also take part in protest and activism by releasing sensitive information or disrupting services or websites.

Additionally, hackers may gather information for espionage purposes or gain access to confidential data, or to show off their technical abilities and test the security of a system.

Understanding these motivations is crucial in developing effective strategies to counter hacking attempts and protect sensitive information from cybercriminals.

Types of Hackers: Categorizing Cyber Criminals

Hackers can be categorized into three main types: black hat, white hat, and gray hat hackers. Black hat hackers use their technical know-how for stealing something of value or for other malicious purposes. In contrast, white hat hackers are individuals who organizations hire to check their security measures and look for any weak points.

Gray hat hackers break rules and regulations but do it for the greater good, not for personal gain or malicious intent. By understanding these different categories of hackers, we can better comprehend the various motivations and actions behind hacking activities, ultimately helping us develop more targeted strategies to protect ourselves and our businesses from cyber threats.

Ethical Hacking: Improving Security Through Authorized Penetration Testing

Ethical hacking involves gaining authorized access to computer systems and networks to check for any possible weaknesses and then fixing them up. Unlike other forms of hacking, ethical hacking is authorized by the system or network owner, with the expectation that the hacker will secure the organization’s privacy and report any vulnerabilities they find. Ethical hacking is legal as long as you have permission from the system or network owner, keep the organization’s privacy in mind, and report any weaknesses you find to the organization and its vendors.

The purpose of white hat hacking is to help organizations stay safe by finding any weak spots in their security systems, allowing them to protect against identity theft and other cybercrimes before malicious actors can exploit these vulnerabilities.

Common Hacking Techniques and Tools

Phishing, malware, social engineering, denial of service (DoS/DDoS) attacks, and SQL injection are some of the common hacking techniques. Phishing is a kind of social engineering attack that involves sending malicious emails or links to people in an attempt to get their personal information or login credentials. Malware is malicious software designed to cause harm to computer systems, steal data, or take control of systems.

Social engineering attacks manipulate people into revealing confidential information or performing specific actions. DoS/DDoS attacks target computer systems or networks, flooding them with traffic or requests and rendering them unavailable to users. SQL injection is a type of attack that inserts malicious code into a vulnerable web application to gain access to sensitive data.

Being aware of these common hacking techniques can help you protect your personal and business data from cyber attacks and implement effective security measures.

Vulnerable Devices and Systems

Smartphones, IoT devices, and outdated software are particularly susceptible to hacking. Email is a popular target of cyberattacks, while mobile phone hackers aim to access an individual’s mobile phone data, including voicemails, phone calls, text messages, and even the phone’s microphone and camera, all without the user’s permission or knowledge. Hacking a router can cause serious damage, such as launching DDoS attacks, DNS spoofing, or even cryptomining. Hackers can gain access to webcams by using a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) in rootkit malware.

Android phones are particularly vulnerable to hacking due to their open-source nature and inconsistencies in standards in terms of software development. Knowing which devices and systems are most vulnerable to hacking can help you take necessary precautions to safeguard your personal information and minimize the risk of cyber attacks.

Protecting Yourself and Your Business from Hacking

It’s essential to take steps and follow best practices to reduce the risk of getting hacked. Weak passwords or account credentials and bad password habits should be avoided. Never use the same password for different accounts, and always opt for strong passwords. Getting a reliable anti-malware product is a must, and keeping software and operating systems updated is key to preventing hacking. Antivirus software is essential for detecting potential malicious files, activity, and bad actors.

Using a VPN is a great way to stay safe online and keep your location and data private. Proofpoint takes extra steps to ensure its security measures are up to date and provides training programs to help people learn how to avoid and mitigate threats. It’s also important to be aware of anti-phishing techniques so you can recognize phishing emails and ransomware attacks.

Legal Aspects of Hacking: Laws and Regulations

Hacking is illegal and can result in fines and even jail time. Ethical hacking, however, is legal, but it’s important to have a contract in place for any penetration tests or security checks of IT systems. The legal aspects of hacking can vary from country to country and depend on the type of hacking.

Law enforcement is very important when it comes to fighting hacking. They investigate and prosecute hackers who break the law and work to help people understand the risks of hacking and how to protect themselves.

By understanding the legal aspects of hacking and the role of law enforcement, we can better appreciate the seriousness of cybercrime and the need for stringent security measures to protect ourselves and our businesses.

Real-life Hacking Incidents: Lessons Learned

Real-life hacking incidents teach us the importance of regularly testing and fixing vulnerabilities, the necessity of strong authentication and access controls, the benefit of transparency and accountability in cybersecurity, and the necessity of prompt response and communication in the event of a breach. These lessons learned can help individuals and businesses better understand the risks associated with hacking and develop effective strategies to protect their sensitive information from cybercriminals.

While we can’t cover all the notable hacking incidents in history, understanding the impact of these events and the lessons learned from them can help us better prepare for and prevent future cyber attacks.


In conclusion, understanding hacking, its history, motivations, and various types of hackers is crucial in protecting ourselves and our businesses from cyber threats. By staying informed about common hacking techniques, vulnerable devices and systems, and the legal aspects of hacking, we can take the necessary steps to safeguard our personal and business data from cybercriminals. Remember, knowledge is power, and staying informed is the first step in the battle against cybercrime.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What do you mean by hacking?

Hacking is when someone uses their technical skills to gain unauthorized access to another person or organization’s systems, networks, and devices. It can be used for malicious activities such as stealing data or disrupting operations, but it can also be used for beneficial purposes such as conducting ethical hacking or helping improve security.

What do hackers actually do?

Hackers utilize their technical knowledge and skills to gain unauthorized access to computer systems, networks, or other digital devices. They use this access to steal sensitive data, manipulate system functions, or disrupt the normal flow of a network.

Hackers can also plant malicious code on an unsuspecting user’s computer to gain control over their system.

Why do people hack?

For most people, the main motivator for hacking is financial gain. As Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed, 86% of the data breaches they analyzed were financially motivated.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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