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The term hacker is generally used as a catch-all term for anyone who gains access to computer resources through illicit, typically technical means. It most likely derives from activities that require a prolonged trial-and-error approach to gaining access, like hacking at a tree branch to cut it down.
Today, hacker is frequently used to refer to anyone from a single individual who can successfully guess a password to gain access to an email account, to large networks of individuals – hackers – attempting a coordinated break-in to protected systems and resources.
Less commonly, the term can also refer in a positive way to someone who implements clever but perhaps inelegant solutions to complex computing problems.
See also: hack.« Back to Glossary Index