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The term hacker encompasses

both those who obtain unauthorized access to computer systems and those who simply enjoy using computers and experimenting with their capabilities as innocent hobbyists.[1]


The earliest computer hackers often were individuals with sophisticated computer skills who simply enjoyed exploring programming and stretching their computer's capabilities. Hackers of this type still exist.

While remote cracking once required a fair amount of skill or computer knowledge, hackers can now download attack scripts from the Internet and launch them against victim sites. Thus, while attack tools have become more sophisticated, they have also become easier to use. Hackers cost companies billions of dollars per year.[2]

Malicious hackers use their skills to write damaging code that propagates over the Internet or to break into private networks for malicious or criminal purposes. While many malicious hacker attacks rank as nuisances rather than being harmful, other hackers have moved into more damaging hostile or criminal activities, producing increasingly sophisticated malicious technologies and tools that proliferate across the Internet. Some of these hackers are taking advantage of their skills to earn money through information theft, identity theft, fraud, denial-of-service attacks (DoS), and extortion. The impact of hackers may expand even further if nation states and others, such as terrorist or organized criminal groups, hire the talent or exploit the hacker-developed technologies.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the large majority of hackers do not have the requisite ability to threaten difficult targets such as critical U.S. networks. Nevertheless, the worldwide population of hackers poses a relatively high threat of an isolated or brief disruption causing serious damage.

Hackers generally can be divided into the following:


  1. United States v. Riggs, 739 F. Supp. 414, 423 (N.D. Ill. 1990)(full-text).
  2. See Mark Baard, "Hackers Costing Enterprises Billions,", Sept. 20, 2004.[1]

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