aNewDomain.net—In the 1970s and 80s, the early days of desktop PCs, a hacker had a much different reputation. Back then a computer hacker was someone who enjoyed tinkering with his or her PC’s hardware and software to improve performance, stability, or make it do things it wasn’t designed to do. Skilled hackers could write a bit of code to push hardware or the operating system to its limits.
With so much still undocumented, the term ‘hacker’ rose from the analogy of a pioneer hacking a path through an unmapped jungle.
Today the term hacker is synonymous with a bad guy/gal trying to break into your computer by exploiting the operating system, browser vulnerabilities, using social engineering or a combination of all three. Hackers are hacking at your vulnerabilities now by targeting your PC, not their own.
There is no clear demarcation when the definition switched from a person doing good to doing bad, but it was well underway in 1995 when the movie Hackers was released. Here a boy is banned from using computers because of writing a virus, yet pursues an underworld of virus writers determined to capsize a fleet of ships. Though labeled a bad guy by the CIA, the character is really a white hat trying to do good. He is an ethical hacker.
Today the term hacker carries such a negative connotation that a good guy who discovers vulnerabilities in order to patch them is called an ethical hacker. Hacker on its own is now a negative.
Based in New York, Dino Londis is a senior commentator at aNewDomain.net, IT Pro alum National Lampoon and teamBYTE. Email him at [email protected]Tags: Security,Technology