What is hacking and how did it start?


Hacking is something that every internet user should always keep in mind – not because they want to become a hacker, but because every mistake they make online puts their devices and accounts at risk.

But what is hacking? And how did everyday Internet users come to fear for their privacy and security even from home?

What is hacking?

Hacking is any activity aimed at exploiting and illegally accessing a computer system, device, or network without the express permission of the owner. Causing harm is sometimes just a by-product of hacking, not a necessary element.

There are gray and white hat hackers who break into systems for positive or morally gray reasons. Some hackers even do it as a joke or to prove their technical skills to their colleagues.

Hacking definition

Almost anyone can give hacking a definition based on their understanding of the internet. How illegal access to devices and networks came to be known as hacking is an old story, but just as important to understanding what hacking is.

The first step in understanding something is knowing what the language used to describe it means. In old and new dictionaries, when looking for a hacking definition, you will come across two different definitions.

Computer hacking can be defined as an unauthorized means of entering a system or device that is not hereditary, but has nonetheless become synonymous with illegal activity.

As a word in itself, chop means to roughly cut or chop something. Of course, this has nothing to do with illegal access to computer systems and devices. In fact, the word as a verb is ahead of all modern computers and digital systems. But it has to do with the very earliest cases of hacking.

How did hacking start?

Keyboard that shows the word

Image from Pixabay.com – Attribution not required.

The first incident of illegal tampering with a technical system was in 1878. A group of teenagers hired by the communications company Bell Telephone abruptly disconnected and misdirected calls to play around. However, this incident is rarely mentioned as the first hacking incident.

What is believed to be the first use of the word “hacking” to denote illegal access to a system happened in 1959. Members of the Tech Model Railroad Club used the word “hack” to mean cutting a circuit and controlling lanes and switches.

Later, in 1969, a group of engineering and model railroading enthusiasts at MIT challenged themselves to hack into a railroad company’s system to improve its efficiency.

The MIT incident, while illegal, was neither harmful nor malicious.

The first hack as we know the word today happened in 1971. Some people discovered that they could access AT & T’s remote control system if they made a high-pitched whistle at 2,600 hertz. This enabled them to make national and international phone calls free of charge.

Related: The Types of Hackers You Should Know About

Computer Hackers and Their Schemes

A hacker attacks a system

Ever since modern computers cemented their existence in homes and offices in the late 1970s and 1980s, hackers as we know them today have emerged. As technology advanced and the internet, email, and cell phones and smartphones became mainstream, malicious hackers managed to break into almost all types of systems and devices.

Now there are dozens of types of hacks to watch out for while browsing social media, checking your email, or making a phone call. Some of them are:

  • Phishing attacks

  • Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks

  • SQL injection attacks

  • Brute force password attacks

  • DNS attacks

  • DoS and DDoS attacks

  • Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks

Will hacking develop again?

Hacking has evolved several times since it was first recorded in the 19th century. Nothing prevents them from evolving again to keep up with technological advances and innovations.

Hackers are already experimenting and developing ways to infiltrate devices and networks with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and bots. And there are similar ways to hack into devices using USB charging ports – also known as juice jacking – and even zero-click attacks that don’t require you to do anything to get infected with malware.

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