Hacker vs Programmer: How Do They Differ?

Hacker vs Programmer: How Do They Differ?

Over the years, there have been a lot of debates regarding the differences and similarities between hackers and developers. Although most people end up confusing the two together, you need to understand that there are many differences between them.

That said, here’s a burning question; what exactly are the differences between hackers and programmers, and do they have anything in common?

The major difference between a hacker and a programmer is that the former primarily looks for vulnerabilities in computer systems and/or networks, exploiting them to gain access and acquire different data. The latter, however, uses one or more computer languages to write, test, debug, and maintain computer programs.

One of the things that a hacker and a programmer have in common is that both of them are capable of using codes to solve problems. Furthermore, a hacker is more of a programmer that has various skills in cybersecurity.

In the rest of this post, you’ll get to understand the differences that exist between hackers and programmers. In addition to that, you’ll also find out everything else that you need to know about the two computer gurus. So, without further ado, let’s get straight down to business.

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About a Programmer

By definition, a computer programmer is someone that writes, tests, debugs, and maintains computer software. A programmer can achieve that by using various languages, such as HyperText Markup Language (HTML), PHP, C, C++, Structured Query Language (SQL), Extensible Markup Language (XML), and Java, to give computer-specific programming instructions.

In the 21st century, we have seen a great advancement in the use of technology. Well, this is possible all thanks to the contributions of programmers, software developers, software engineers, and several other contributors across the world.

When software engineers and developers design software for general use, the work of programmers is to write codes that help to convert the designs into sets of instructions, which a computer system can recognize and follow. These codes will enable the designed software or application to function effectively.

Key hard skills of programmers

For you to become a programmer, the most important criteria you should meet is to understand one or more programming languages. However, since languages differ in use and applicability, you should be able to expand your skill sets as time goes on and learn more advanced languages.

Here are some of the hard skills that you need to learn as a programmer to expand your career prospects:

  1. Java: This is a high-level, object-oriented programming language, designed by Oracle to have a few implementation dependencies. With that, it means the language is known for its “write once, run anywhere” capability.
  2. Javascript (JS): It’s a full-fledged dynamic programming language. It’s one of the most powerful and flexible languages you can learn out there
  3. Linux: This is an open-source operating system. It’s utilized by most developers and programmers to power most supercomputers, servers, mobile devices, and IoT, across the world.

Other hard skills that programmers need to expand their career prospects are Ruby, HTML, C#, Swift, SQL, Visual Basic, ASP.NET, C++, PHP, and Rust.

In addition to that, programmers also need to learn a few soft skills to advance their careers. These skills include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication and organizational skills
  • Multitasking skill

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About a Hacker

As previously defined, hackers often look for vulnerabilities in computer systems or networks. As soon as they find any weakness, they develop a way to exploit it and gain access to data.

Many people often confuse hackers as programmers. While there are slight similarities between them, you need to understand that the primary difference between them is that hackers are programmers with relevant skills in cybersecurity. 

Generally, there are several different types of hackers out there. The classification is based on how they work and the intent of their actions.

Ethical hackers

First, there is an ethical hacker or white hat. This type of hacker looks for vulnerabilities, exploits them, and gains access to computer systems. However, the aim is to fix any of the identified weaknesses.

Crackers (Black hat)

These hackers will look for vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks. As soon as they find one, they find ways to take advantage of it by gaining access to unauthorized data belonging to other people. Crackers aim to steal corporate data, transfer funds from bank accounts, etc

Grey hat

A grey hat hacker is a type of hacker that sits in between the black and white hat. What that means is that they look for vulnerabilities in systems and then gain unauthorized access to them. However, instead of stealing data, they reveal the weaknesses to the owners.


Other types of hackers that are hardly spoken about include the following:

  • Hacktivist
  • Phreaker
  • Script kiddie

Hacktivists are hackers that look for weaknesses in computer networks or systems. As soon as they find any vulnerability, they take advantage of it to gain access to unauthorized data, which they use to send social, religious, and political messages.

Phreakers focus more on telephones instead of computer systems or networks. What they do is to look for vulnerabilities in telephone systems that they can gain unauthorized access to.

Lastly, script kiddies only capitalize on using existing software to launch their hacking attacks. They usually don’t have the required skills but use various already made tools to gain unlawful access to computer systems.

The Big Difference Between a Hacker and a Programmer

The bottom line is most hackers (not all of them; such as the script kiddies) are programmers. The only thing that differentiates them from programmers is that they also have additional skills in cybersecurity.

Hackers make use of programming skills and cybersecurity knowledge to look for vulnerabilities, which they often take advantage of, to gain authorized or unauthorized access to corporate data. The job of a programmer is primarily to write, test, debug, and maintain computer software for IT companies.

Lastly, I’ll say the ability of hackers to write programs and look for vulnerabilities in any system makes them more talented than programmers.

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