Computer hacking is an interesting phenomenon.  The practice began in the 1960s, when hacking was seen as a sort of fun-and-games way to test the boundaries of one’s own knowledge against one’s own computer system or software applications to today’s villains who hack into banks, governments, and all sorts of sensitive websites in order to instill fear and power and to commit fraud and theft.

Hackers cannot succeed without an extremely sophisticated knowledge of the computer and applications in question.  They must also know how a server works as well as how data is transmitted all along the way.  Many professional hackers put their work to good use (law enforcement, for example) but others choose a more sinister way of proving their worth.

The sinister hackers make headlines more often than the professional hacker doing good.  Some confirmed or suspected hacking incidents in recent news include manipulation of a nation’s nuclear power facility; theft of millions of files containing user names, passwords, and banking information; and the infiltration of computer worms or viruses that wreak widespread havoc on unsuspecting computer users around the world.

On the good side, hackers represent people just like you.  You might use your knowledge of computer programming to enhance the performance of your own computer.  This may mean tweaking the memory to boost speed, writing some macros to streamline routine tasks, and programming your computer to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ at the appropriate moment.  All these activities represent a benign form of hacking that affects no one but yourself and your own personal computer system.  This is today’s version of fun-and-games hacking.

Other hackers share their knowledge in the form of freeware or shareware.  Some of these hackers are professionals while others are hobbyists.  Their programs are offered free or for a minimal time or cost to anyone interested.  Some common freeware or shareware applications available include calendars, those that count web page views, and search boxes.  There’s fun here, too, as many of these applications are for games and puzzles.

This form of programming will never be forced on you nor will it infiltrate your computer system without your knowledge.  All freeware and shareware is a matter of choice to the user (you) and you must personally download the application to your computer.

When hacking involves any computer other than one’s own, it’s illegal everywhere.  The money may be tempting but the risk is ridiculous.

On the other hand, if you develop a nifty little program that does something really cool (and harmless) and you’d like to share it, you’re the kind of hacker everybody wants to see.

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