Hacking – What It Is and What it Isn’t

What is Hacking?

Hacking is the practice of modifying the features of a system, in order to accomplish a goal outside of the creator’s original purpose. The person who is consistently engaging in hacking activities, and has accepted hacking as a lifestyle and philosophy of their choice, is called a hacker.

 

– See more at: http://whatishacking.org

As security professionals it is quite often that we discuss the term “hacking” only when it comes to the derogatory aspect of causing some form of destruction or harm to one’s self or one’s property.

However, “hacking” is by no means an actual bad event.

The term “hacking” has been used by programmers and technical professionals for years. It is often considered to be based upon the thought of old sword fighting references such as the “hacking and slashing” effect when using swords in combat or using machetes in the jungle to clear away brush.

Anytime a program is altered from the original structure that modification is often considered a hack. 

This also has come to apply to most any modern day event or practice. For instance, a Life Hack could be the process of modifying ones own lifestyle to improve upon the quality of life or a Phone Hack to provide someone with free long distance.

A hack does not explicitly implicate trouble. As a society we look down upon terms such as “hacker” due to the negative connotations that are associated with it due to bank hacking, credit card hacks and such concerns as identity theft.

Computer hacking is the most popular form of hacking nowadays, especially in the field of computer security, but hacking exists in many other forms, such as phone hacking, brain hacking, etc. and it’s not limited to either of them. 

The Hacking Process

Take any program, process or event and find a way to make it better and you likely created a hack in some manner. Take into account that there are always ways in which to improve things, regardless of what that something is.

WordPress is “full of hacks” if you will, simply installing any type of plugin or modification qualifies. If you make any manual edit to any file, such as the CSS or template then you technically have “hacked” your site.

If you consider changing anything away from its intended use to be a hack, then you can hack just about anything. Converting a lawn mower engine into a generator is a hack. Using a fan as an electric motor is a hack. Hacking is not hard to do, or wrong by and of itself.

Most hacks actually look to improve upon the functionality, design or implementation of whatever is being hacked.

Hacking as an Event

Hacking has become such a large phenomenon that you can even participate in “hacking events”. These events are often referred to as a “Hack Day”..

What is a Hack Day?

Now and then, developers like to get together, get creative and build cool stuff. We call this a Hack Day, because developers are hacking stuff around, experimenting, improvising, creating and playing. This kind of hacking has nothing to do with trying to access high security computers in Moscow or Langley, because this is about hacking for good.

 

– http://rewiredstate.org/hack-days

An example of this type of event just happened over the weekend in the UK:

Parliament Hack 2013!

 

Parliament Week is a national initiative which aims to build greater understanding of and engagement with parliamentary democracy in the UK. So this will be your opportunity to build something around the data and and ideas you are passionate about.

 

Parliament has a lot of data: not all of which has been explored, yet! Last year we had a huge range of excellent apps and ideas (which you can check out here for inspiration) and this year looks set to build on that excellent experience.

 

Rewired State Parliament hack will be kicking off Parliament week with a two day hack weekend on the 16th and 17th of November at the Hub Westminster. The weekend will attract some of the best developers and designers from across the UK to build prototype apps using government data sets in a informal and fun hack day setting.

 

There will be a show and tell on the Sunday the 17th at 4pm-6pm, so even if you are not a coder you can still sign up, come along and take part in the experience that is Rewired State & UK Parliament Hack 2013.

Before you run off and think that everything is being hacked, consider for the moment if you are a hacker too. It does not take much to qualify as one. It is easy enough to do and you have likely been doing it for some time.

If you are still worried about computer hacking, such as the type we worry about, then consider reading more of the site and learning how you can prevent such problems. Just beware, once you start making changes and implementing security for your own website, you actually become a hacker in the process.

Welcome to the club. 🙂