What is a hacker?

By “hacker” we mean a computer hardware, software, or programming enthusiast. A hacker likes to push boundaries, pick locks (for fun), and find ways to control hardware and make it do things that it wasn’t intended to do. Unfortunately, the word “hacking” has developed negative connotations over the years because it has been used much too broadly to also include criminals who break into systems without authorization to steal information, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers, or drain bank accounts. We call these people criminals or attackers, not hackers.

Hackers also like to create things. Other hackers might be mathematicians, scientists, roboticists, programmers, physicists, or computer security specialists.

Hackers dig deep; often staying up late learning something new or solving a thorny problem. Hackers tend to be brilliant but not always interested in conventional goals. Ideas, self-education, and respect within the community are often stronger drivers than money. Hackers are often not part of the mainstream populations (what hackers call “normals”) in their schools or local communities, but once they find their community the relationships between fellow hackers can be intense.

Hackers play an ever-expanding important role in protecting the public and in improving online security. The skills needed to excel at hacking need to be taught to a broader swath of the public and in underserved populations, all of which the Foundation aims to do.