When people know that I took up Computer Science in college, they would ask, "Do you know how to hack?" and I give different responses depending on how seriously the question is addressed to me.
First, I clarify their notion of hacking - most people think hacking is stealing information online by means of injection or tweaking of some codes to a software, system or website; probably by using some keylogger softwares (like my friends do) or any other means to permeate into such systems even without one's own access/login information. This notion is quite right as even Mr. Webster defines hacker as: "a person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system."
My idea of a hacking is quite different. In my life of work, it's a very good skill; a skill that many programmers or even IT specialists don't have. The results are sloppy codes and programs that are very easy to penetrate. Hacking is a specialization; requires conscientiously studying IT Security issues. If you're good at it, you can imagine possible entry points where hackers can break into and can thus create mechanisms to strengthen your system.
Just recently, my cousin sought my help. Somebody was using her email address as a login information in one of the popular social networking sites and just realized it when she would be notified of some updates of that person's profile. I did some investigative work and realizing the culprit was easy - it did not require me much work. There was this young, 16 year old, Indonesian girl using my cousin's email address. No harm was done yet - her face on her pictures looked so innocent but I don't know her reason to use my cousin's email account when she can create one.
Hacking is a skill you can learn - although most good hackers don't need to go to school to learn it, EC-Council provides instructed-assisted study of Ethical Hacking. They also provide classes
on Security Fundamentals, Ethical Hacking, Penetration Testing, Computer Forensics , Disaster Recovery and Secure Programming.
A good hacker is an asset to an IT company and can earn big professional fee. I remember a story of a very talented artist, he can replicate money so well that it would look so real. One day, he was hungry and decided to buy something from a store - using a $20 that he painted. When the paper got wet, the paint washed off and the store owner notified the police. He was jailed and it was there that the story ended. Poor guy - if he only used his skills in a good way, he would have earned millions.
Photo Credit: CartoonStock