Defining hacker isn’t so straightforward. The name has an “I know it when I see it” ring to it. Most computer programmers are hackers, but not all of them.
In general, hackers are problem solvers. Hackers are scrappy. Hackers express themselves with computer code and use their skills to solve problems.
Two Types of Hackers
For some, the word hacker conjures up images of Soviet tech experts breaking into CIA computers or criminals with Guy Fawkes masks. In reality, there are two types of hackers.
- Black hat hackers: a hacker who hacks maliciously (aka. the bad hackers)
- White hat hackers: ethical hackers. These hackers use their skills to expose vulnerabilities before malicious hackers exploit them.
Once a year the world’s best hackers (and those looking to improve their hacking skills) show up at Defcon — the world’s leading hacker conference. Attending Defcon can be a great opportunity to learn more about hackers and hacker culture. Here are some additional resources that I’d recommend:
Top hacker books to learn about hacker culture:
- Hackers: Heros of the Computer Revolution, a book by Steven Levy
- Hackers and Painters, a book by Paul Graham [Essay] [Interview with Paul Graham]
- Learn about Richard Stallman’s GNU Manifesto
- Code 2.0, by Lawrence Lessig
- The Word “Hacker” by Paul Graham
- The Hacker Ethic — The four values that define hacker culture.
- Hacker news — A popular news aggregator brought to you by Y Combinator
- Hackernoon — A popular community-driven blog about hacking, code, and cryptocurrency.