A security hacker is a computer professional who uses their own specialized knowledge to effectively achieve an objective or overcome an existing obstacle, usually within a computer network by non-standard methods. Although the word “hacker” is often associated with computer programmers and hackers, any skilled computer user can become a hacker or a hacker to some degree. Basically, a hacker is anyone that can break into a computer system and use the information therein for their own advantage. Sometimes, these individuals are employed by companies to gain unauthorized access to another individual’s computer system in order to determine whether that person is cheating on them or not.
The term “Hacker” has become synonymous with computer security specialists and has even reached Hollywood. The movie “War Games” used the hacking concept to show how a group of military intelligence officers came to blows over a war because they did not understand the importance of cyber warfare. Hollywood has even turned hacker culture into a subculture, with people collecting posters of famous hackers or building homemade computers modeled on the hackers’ positions. Additionally, there are many hacker competitions that show off the skill of young people preparing for the next big thing in computer security. In fact, many hackers compete against each other to see who has the most hackers.
A security hacker then becomes a person who studies computer systems and designs software programs to try and breach systems. They use their knowledge of how computer systems work and what type of information can be gained to break into networks and gain unauthorized access. It may seem extreme to many, but the reality is that not all computer systems are safe from a hacker’s advances. In fact, many times a hacker may not even have to gain unauthorized access to a computer system in order to get all the information they want.
While the illegal practice of stealing information to use for criminal activities is called malware, security professional uses tools that are considered ethical hacking techniques to gain access to computer systems. This is different from illegal hacking which involves stealing information to use against another person. This is because ethical hackers only gain access to computer systems to help the public. Their goal is not to cause harm to the individual using the system.
The terminology of a security programmer is slightly different than an actual security hacker. While both are required to work within networks, a programmer subculture diverges into two different groups. While some programmers are required to work directly for a company, others are contractors that are hired by a larger corporation to help them maintain their computer systems. They are usually responsible for making sure a computer system is kept up to date, fixing any glitches, and adding new programs or upgrades when necessary. However, in the larger company context, a programmer is considered an employee and does not fall under the classification of a hacker.
While it might seem that this definition is too simplistic, there are many things that separate the two groups. For one thing, while both programmers and hackers gain access to computer systems, the primary difference between the two is what they do with the information once they have it. A hacker will use their knowledge to try to get their hands on information that would allow them to break into a network and control the computers of just about anyone who uses it, whereas an ethical hacker will use their skills to secure data so that it can be used ethically.
To break down the difference further, a programmer may use their hacking skills to develop a program that will allow a network to be attacked without actually causing any damage. However, they do not actually break any laws by doing this. On the other hand, a hacker will deliberately be trying to find ways to break into a computer system and gain access to sensitive information that would allow that person to break into other networks and take out banks, software, and/or files that would allow them to run rampant havoc on the computer system. While a legitimate hacker may also do this, a subculture hacker will go so far as to acquire illegal access in order to support their personal computer security agenda.
When you want to understand the difference between a hacker and a programmer, it is important to pay close attention to the terminology that both groups employ. While both parties might use jargon that makes little sense to non-coders, the terms that the hackers and programmers use are specifically employed because the information being sought is highly classified or sensitive. For example, a programmer subculture might refer to hacking as “breaking the law” when in fact what they are really doing is gaining access to a network without breaking the law. It is this legal grey area that allows both groups to sometimes act in ways that would seem to be unethical if not illegal.