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An individual whose primary aim in life is to penetrate the security defences of large, sophisticated, computer systems. A truly skilled hacker can penetrate a system right to the core, and withdraw again, without leaving a trace of the activity. Fortunately such individuals are relatively rare, (although the numbers are growing), and the majority of those persons which the media are prone to call Hackers are really only Anoraks, Geeks, etc., or possibly Proto-Hackers who can penetrate some systems and leave childish messages to prove how smart they are. Proto-Hackers are those who aspire to Hackerdom but have not yet acquired the necessary skills to get past serious security measures without setting off alarm systems.

Hackers, of whatever variety, are a threat to all computer systems which allow access from outside the organisation's premises, and the fact that most 'Hacking' is just an intellectual challenge should not allow it to be dismissed as a prank. Clumsy hacking can do extensive damage to systems even when such damage was not intentional.

Statistics suggest that the world's primary Hacker target - the Pentagon - is attacked, on average, once every three minutes. How many of those attacks are from Hackers and how many from Government Agencies, criminals, and terrorists, around the world is another question entirely.....

The term is also applied (possibly unfairly) to those individuals who do not attack or attempt to penetrate computer systems, but use their skill to Hack commercially available packages, usually game software, to give themselves some advantage, make the game harder or different, etc. Such Hacks are often published in computer magazines as 'Hints, Tips, and Cheats' - much to the annoyance of the developers. This type of Hacker is not normally a threat to organisation computer systems except, possibly those of game software development companies.

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