In the 1983 movie WarGames, a teenage hacker nearly starts a nuclear war. This premise frightened President Ronald Reagan so much that the following year lawmakers passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which made hacking a felony. The prevailing wisdom was that hackers were dangerous because of the power they could wield over the increasingly computerized world.
Fast forward 30 years and the term “hacker” is still often used interchangeably with “criminal.” Additional laws, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, further criminalize hacking activities.
But not all hackers are evil. In fact, the Internet today could not exist without their skills in uncovering security weaknesses and the willingness of many to report those holes to get them fixed.