Well, in your point of view, what is hacking?
We mostly think of hacking as the act of breaking into secured systems to determine their flaws and explore it. It simply is the modification of a piece of hardware or code to perform differently. It also includes modifying the system's hardware to make it work better and faster. We can see this in its history.
What does the government say?
According to the US laws, it is intentionally accessing a system without authorization or exceeding authorized access, and thereby obtaining information contained in a financial record of a financial institution, or of a card issuer. The laws mostly emphasize on government computers, but intrusion made on your family member or friend’s pc without his/her knowledge is also a crime.
What makes them great.
These intruders are some of the brightest minds on this planet that understand how to bypass protocols and breach networks. They seem formidable because of their use of programming languages like python, perl, C and several other languages which an ordinary user don not know of. These languages are not meant to be used for intrusion, but are meant for educational purposes and software development and correction.
They use these languages to produce
viruses, trojans and worms
which have tremendous effects on your hard disk contents. They get in, copy, distort and erase valuable information/terminate their targets. These effects are easily propagated on the internet through pictures, mails and other means.