What is Computer Hacking? - Definition, Prevention & History

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What is the Difference Between Phishing and Pharming?

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Computer Hacking
  • 0:57 Hacking: Prevention
  • 4:18 Hacking History
  • 5:46 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson, we'll learn what computer hacking is, the activities involved, and ways of preventing it. We'll also examine briefly how computer hacking has evolved over the years.

Computer Hacking

Computer hacking, on one hand, describes the activities practiced by individuals, organizations, and nations, in order to gain unauthorized access to computer and technology dependent systems. These activities may involve the modification or alteration of system's software and hardware in order to perform activities neither purposed by the creator nor in line with the creator's original intentions.

On the other hand, and in a more positive connotation, it refers to the habitual activities of someone who possesses exceptional skills and enjoys researching and analyzing the innermost intricacies in computer programming.

Looking at both sides of the definition, we can see that the general term is not permanently doomed with a negative connotation. In fact, depending on the nature of the objectives of the hacker, a differentiation has been stipulated in the computer world. As such, hackers with malicious intent have been defined as crackers.

Hacking: Prevention

The world of technology includes devices, software programs, and applications. Individuals and organizations use various methods and precautions to protect their digital assets from being compromised.


To prevent hacking, it's important to update applications and devices as soon as the updates are available. Updates not only enhance and improve the user's experience with the application, but also they constantly improve and rectify security weaknesses and loopholes in it. If 3 doors of the car are locked but the 4th is not, your car's safety is measured by the open 4th door!

Password Security

Keeping passwords secret is important, but ensuring they are not accessed or revealed is better. Most secure platforms today demand complex passwords for login. This may include capitals, numbers, and characters. Passwords are safest if they are not shared with anyone - not even IT administrators and so-called organizational representatives - or written down. It's also important to change them often.

Vetting Websites and Web Sources

It's amazing how careful we are when we use our credit and debit cards in public yet an even more menacing threat exists right under our thumbs: downloading. There is an app for everything these days, and everything is at the tip of our thumbs with the download button. Failing to ensure that we access, sign up, download, and interact with reputable sites can open ourselves up for trouble. Secure websites are denoted by a padlock icon, which is positioned to the left of the URL address.

Wireless Network Access

It's also important to be security conscious of the networks we access in addition to securing our devices. Secure wireless access connections always require a password. We all welcome free services, but we must remember they could be the source of our future woes. Open wireless connections are known to be very vulnerable, and communication over such unsecured networks could expose every key you stroke.

Protection Against Phishing scams

We have spoken about vetting web sources, but phishing scams are another serious threat. They are fictitious emails that mimic the contents of your banking website; for example, they may include instructions to follow a link that leads you to a hoax site. The goal of this malicious threat is to steal your sensitive data like login details, passwords, and pin numbers. The hoax site looks identical to your banking website, but the URL on the other hand is slightly different. Here's an example:

  • Your bank's URL is www.realbank.com (realbank.com domain)
  • A hoax site URL might read: www.realbank.52.com (the 52.com domain)

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account