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The benefits of hacking for programmers

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Many people who have a programming background or have trained in computer science love any movie with a great hacking scene.

Many people who have a programming background or have trained in computer science love any movie with a great hacking scene. They make the entire profession look unbelievably cool, even if the hacking scenes are dramatized to the point of total exaggeration.

In reality, most of our experience with hackers involves trying to prevent them from breaking into our systems or exploiting our back end. We learn everything we can about security, but most developers never think of trying to beat hackers at their own game- by learning the tricks of the trade themselves.

Ethical hacking (also called white hat hacking) is more in demand than ever before, as corporations all over the globe are hiring computer experts who can probe their systems for weaknesses and break down their vulnerabilities so they can be fixed. These ethical hackers offer the opportunity for companies to get ahead of illegal hackers, who may be trying to break into their system to exploit them for ransom money, or for the purposes of stealing identities or trade secrets.

There are a lot of ways that regular programmers can benefit from learning some of the skills that hackers use. It’s not enough to be able to produce useful code- developers now need to be able to protect it from security-related attacks.

Here are some reasons why you should consider getting more familiar with hacking.


There’s a lot of difference between an independent hacker and a web dev who’s always been part of a team. Hackers who are regularly working on their own learn a different mindset, and a different set of skills in order to perform their jobs well.

If you’ve always worked as part of a team, learning some basic hacking skills can help you become more independent, and more capable of advanced work on your own.


The most basic skill at the root of hacking is problem solving. Essentially, you’re trying to get into the same seemingly impenetrable system over and over again. Great hackers are creative thinkers and are capable of solving the most complex and tricky problems. They don’t let anything stop them, and are able to use their tool-box of skills to come up with a creative solution to any obstacle.

Some of the very first computer geniuses of our time can be said to be hackers at heart. One story about the early days of Apple involves Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak prank calling the Pope at the Vatican after they learned that a certain tone whistled into a phone would give them endless, free long distance calls. Ultimately, they got as far as the Pope’s personal translator before they were stopped. The two Steves’ willingness to explore the limits of technology (and the legal system) has inspired generations of hackers to think creatively.


Even senior developers find hacking difficult at the beginning. For most of us, the bulk of our experience is on the opposite side of the security wall. We learn what we need to do to protect our systems.

However, when your job is to attack a security system until it folds, you learn a lot about aspects of security you’ve never thought about before. There’s a lot of value to being able to see the weaknesses in a build before they become an issue.

As we move into 2020, there are more news stories about hacking than ever before. Whether the focus is an election, our personal information, or even international trade secrets, hackers are getting more sophisticated and adept at getting what they want. The only thing standing in the way of potentially massive data breaches is our ability to anticipate threats and get out ahead of them. The more we learn about hacking, the more we can protect our systems against these ongoing security threats.


As more and more companies experience data breaches, CEOs and those responsible for security are desperate to secure employees who have the required cybersecurity skills to repel hackers. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that the cybersecurity and information security workforce will increase by 32% by 2028- a rate that’s much higher than average. These jobs come with a median pay of around $100,000 USD per year, or at least $47.28 USD per hour. These high-paying jobs will go to highly skilled workers who can prove that they know enough about hacking to prevent their employer’s systems from being compromised. Many jobs in this field are currently unfilled, and employers are simply waiting for the right candidate to come along.


There’s a reason why so many movies feature scenes of hackers breaking into the evil executive’s computer system. The transgression, even if it’s imagined, is part of the fun! Many programmers who start hacking in their spare time find that it’s a relaxing and fun break from their usual routine. It’s a great way to learn new things in an exciting and goal-oriented environment.


If you’re thinking about learning hacking as a hobby, or as a skill to supplement your resume, you’re in luck- it’s never been easier. There are tons of resources online where you can learn, and forums and groups where you can share your progress with others. If you don’t know where to start, get more familiar with the field by reading articles on cyber security and the history of corporate hacking. Then, you can jump in on your own with an educational platform like Hacker101 or Google’s Bug Hunter University, which feature helpful videos, articles, and resources that you can make your way through on your own time.

If you want to take a more guided approach, there are several comprehensive online courses that will help you gradually build up your skills. These range in price from free to up to $500.

Whether you learn on your own, work with your peers to build skills together, or take an online course, there are lots of ways for you to jump into the work of ethical hacking. By learning these skills, you’re putting yourself on the fast track to personal growth, as well as professional advancement.