Hacking is the process of seeking out vulnerabilities or weaknesses in your computer system that attackers can exploit to gain access, steal information, and sometimes, even disable its operation. There are many ways of hacking into a computer. These include methods like brute-force attacks, social engineering, using Trojans, vulnerability exploitation, and others.
If you think of your computer as a house, then hackers would be like thieves trying to find the best and most efficient way to break into it.
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The first recorded case of hacking happened as early as 1903 when inventor Nevil Maskelyne disturbed the demonstration of his rival, Guglielmo Marconi.
Marconi, at that time, was showing the public his new wireless device, which he claimed to be capable of sending messages securely over a long distance. To demonstrate, Marconi himself was about 300 miles away from the auditorium where Professor Fleming and several people were waiting with a receiver. Just as they were about to celebrate the success of the new device, an unexpected event happened. The projector displayed the following insulting messages in morse code:
“There was a young man from Italy, who diddled the public quite prettily.”
Maskelyne successfully hacked Marconi’s wireless system, which was supposedly secure. He did this, perhaps because of personal reasons. Maskelyne worked for another wireless company and had had several disputes with Marconi over several patents.
Fast forward to more than a century later. Hacking has evolved not only in terms of methodology but also in terms of the reasons for doing it.
Why do Hackers Hack: 4 Main Reasons
Maskelyne’s purpose for hacking his rival’s wireless system was to prove that the claim that it was secure wasn’t accurate. Today, hacking occurs for several reasons, and most of them are ugly. So why exactly do hackers hack? Here are four main reasons:
1. To Prove that They Can
The first hacking incident ever recorded—Maskelyne compromising his rival’s wireless device falls into this category. Several hackers also strut their stuff to show that they can so they could gain notoriety. That is a well-documented behavior of so-called “script kiddies.”
However, hacking can also serve a good cause, as in the case of ethical hacking. So-called “white hat” or ethical hackers earn a living by looking for vulnerabilities in an organization’s network, systems, and products so their owners can patch and fix the flaws. Their end goal is to make networks and their components more secure.
2. For Financial Gain
Then there are those hackers who do the deed to steal data and hold them for ransom or sell them on the Dark Web. Hackers who are motivated by money are what we more popularly know as “cybercriminals.” And most of the time, they are never satisfied with just a few victims.
3. To Destabilize a Nation-State
These days, even wars between countries occur in the digital realm. Governments employ hackers to perform what is known as “state-sponsored” hacking to gain intelligence on a rival. Hackers who engage in such activities are typically called “threat actors.”
4. To Gain a Competitive Edge
Corporate espionage no longer involves company staff walking into a rival company’s premises and pretending to be a prospective client. These days, people don’t even have to leave their desks to spy on a competitor. Instead, all they need is some hacking skills so they can get into a rival’s network, and learn their secrets.
While there could be more reasons why hackers do what they do, they usually fall under any of these four reasons. But the glaring fact is that hacking occurs because of vulnerabilities in systems and applications we use.