Computer hacking describes the modification of a computer's hardware or software to accomplish a specific goal that does not align with the owner's original purpose. Computer hackers typically have expert-level knowledge in the area of computer technology, which gives them very deep insight into how computers work and the skills necessary to manipulate them in a variety of ways.
Computer hackers know how to gain unauthorized access to individual computer systems and shared computer networks. Some hackers break in to systems out of simple curiosity or to test their hacking skills, while others do so with the intent to engage in malicious activity. Many hackers intend to steal personal information, destroy system files, alter financial data, break security codes and perform other activities that can completely disrupt or damage an entire computer network. Hacking performed with malicious intent can lead to federal prison time.
Many organizations hire programmers with hacking skills because these individuals know how to detect and fix issues that make a company's computer network vulnerable to malicious attacks. Those who want to protect their personal home computers from malicious hackers must invest in a good firewall program, which is a type of software that blocks hackers, viruses and malware that tries to enter computer systems through the Internet.