Answer: we don't yet have questions with the tag covering these, perhaps the only common uses of the term not included.

and its synonym are undefined and have 44 questions. The term is used so loosely, it isn't clear that it is a useful tag.

  • Is there a useful definition that would serve a purpose on the site to provide context or focus, or attract knowledgeable answerers?
  • Should we clean this up?
  • 21
    +1 for the witty title :)
    – DavidPostill Mod
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 20:53
  • 13
    Since I was browsing the stack exchange hot questions list I got confused and thought this was a question on the puzzle stackexchange xD Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 1:35
  • 4
    You can try and restrict them or redefine them, but people are going to use them wrongly. I say that "hack" is way too vague to be useful and should be nuked.
    – Mokubai Mod
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 12:25

3 Answers 3


It seems to have three primary uses:

  • The poster thinks they've been hacked, and they want to undo what the bad software/entity did. Example.
  • The poster is trying to break into something and needs help doing so. Example.
  • The poster wants to do something that may require whacking some system's internals (e.g. they're looking for a "Registry hack"), and wants to know how to twiddle those internals. Example.

In the last two senses, is just a meta tag; it doesn't tell you anything about the environment or the task. If the tag is not equally undesirable in its first sense, it seems possibly duplicitous of .

If we want a tag for "I think I've been hacked!", then we could restrict this tag to the first definition. One could argue that there are experts in examining and restoring hacked systems. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for people to tell what behavior is actually the result of malware. Also, doing a decent job of malware inspection often requires poking around to see exactly what changed; it may not be possible to include everything necessary in a question.

Since it means a bunch of different things at the moment, it should definitely be removed at least from questions using it in the last two senses.

  • 1
    Yeah. It's also been used to refer to a workaround to accomplish something that isn't a feature. This is probably a case where the tag will get misused even if it has a restricted definition.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 21:45
  • 1
    For the first case we could synonymize hack to but-i-probably-havent.
    – Jason C
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 23:07
  • 1
    In my experience, 99.999999999_% of people who claim they've been hacked have actually clicked a link they weren't supposed to. I can't judge whether their subconscious is trying to absolve them of blame they know they deserve, or if they honestly don't know the difference between a virus and a "hack". I'd wager most of them simply lump "hack", "virus", and "generally bad computer thingy" into the same pile and because "hack" comes earlier in the dictionary, they use it when searching for the best definition for what they're experiencing (and maybe paying me to resolve). Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 1:12

Just to close the loop on this question, the tag has been cleaned up. The majority were simply decoration, others were retagged as appropriate, following suggestions in the answers and comments.


Given that this is Superuser, I'd suggest the following definitions (closer to the original meaning of hack):

Hack: Whacking/twiddling some system internals in a way not easily accomplished via standard GUI functions, usually accompanied by a disclaimer that the solution may break the computer if not done with care

Malware / Security: tags to use if you think you've been hacked, or if malware has messed up your system and you need help fixing/recovering it

We don't really need hack to be related to malware or security, since we have those tags. And if someone asks how to hack into a bank server I imagine we won't be assisting. So those meanings of hack don't need to be covered by the tag.

The tag 'hacked' in past tense could be used for people suffering security / malware issues if we really need another tag for that. This would differentiate from 'hack' in the sense of messing with the registry etc.

  • 1
    Awwww, really? Well, the bank server is safe for another day! :P Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 22:37
  • 1
    Oh, the original meaning?
    – Bergi
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 11:12

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