hacker | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

In the realm of criminal justice, a hacker is someone who illegally breaks into computer systems or networks using advanced computer skills.

To truly understand what a hacker does, it’s essential to dive into the specifics of hacking. First, one of the main activities of a hacker is to steal sensitive information. This can range from personal data like credit card numbers, to confidential corporate information, and even to top-secret government documents. Their tools of choice? Advanced computer skills, knowledge of systems, and an uncanny ability to find weak spots.

Vulnerabilities and Exploits

The tactics hackers use to break into systems are varied and sophisticated. One way they get unauthorized access is by exploiting software vulnerabilities. A vulnerability is a weak spot or flaw in a computer’s defenses. Hackers are incredibly adept at finding these flaws. When they do, they use these “holes” to worm their way into the system. This process is known as exploiting.

The Art of Password Cracking

Password guessing or cracking is another common method hackers use. They use software that tries many password combinations until it gets the right one. They may also employ social engineering techniques, tricking individuals into revealing their passwords. This method shows that hacking isn’t just about computer skills, it’s also about psychological manipulation.

Social Engineering: Manipulation and Deception

Social engineering is a tactic that deserves its own spotlight. In this context, it doesn’t involve large structures or civic planning. Instead, it’s all about manipulating people. Hackers using social engineering might pretend to be a trusted individual or company to trick their victims into giving away sensitive information. This tactic proves that hackers don’t always need to break into a system. Sometimes, they can convince you to open the door.

Disruption and Damage

Hacking isn’t just about stealing information. Many hackers aim to disrupt systems, causing chaos and financial losses. They may infect systems with harmful software known as malware. Once inside a system, malware can delete files, slow down networks, or even shut down entire systems. This form of hacking can cripple businesses and institutions, causing havoc on a large scale.

The Law and Hacking

The crucial thing to remember is that criminal hacking is illegal. The unauthorized access, the theft of information, the disruption of systems—it all falls foul of the law. This means hackers, when caught, face serious penalties. They may end up paying hefty fines or even serving prison time.

In conclusion, hacking is much more than a faceless person behind a computer screen. It’s a complex set of activities that can cause real-world harm. It’s also a criminal act punishable under the law. So, while hackers may seem elusive and mysterious, they’re not above the law. They can and do face the consequences of their actions.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/21/2023

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