A computer enthusiast who enjoys learning everything about a computer system and, through clever programming, pushes the system to its highest possible level of performance. Often confused with crackers, these hobbyists are skilled programmers with the reputation of having a mischievous bent for breaking into secured systems. In one sense, a hacker is a person who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about it. In another sense, the term "hacker" tends to connote membership within a global community defined by computer networks; it implies that the person subscribes to some version of the hacker ethic. Hacking has been going on since computers were invented, and sometimes there have been extremely damaging consequences. A variety of old-time hackers have now "gone commercial" and taken hacking to the business level (they are now referred to as "ethical hackers").
For example, they use their hacking skills to develop penetration tools, and then they go out and analyze a customer's networks for security vulnerabilities, in order to report the findings back to the customer. Hacker wannabes take note: It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe oneself that way. Most hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), although new members are said to be gladly welcome.