Of course it is. There are groups of hackers, but there are also very many individual hackers that do these things as well. There are actually two kinds of hackers. Ethical hackers and non ethical hackers. The ethical hackers hack to improve security or to stop crime or even create programs. Unethical hackers do all of the infamous stuff you hear about in society, like taking down the PSN and Steam networks. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if only one person did those things. There are also people that THINK they are hackers, like the people that "hack" facebook, but they just do something like watching the person type in their password or use the person's phone when they aren't around. Those aren't real hackers.
Not surprisingly, there aren't very many hackers left in the world (that I know of) and the still existing hackers are very good at what they do. But again, with increasing security and lack of exploits, the only things hackers can hack at the moment are small websites that take no effort. As for pinging, that's just sending probes back and forth to and from a website that shows vital information necessary for hacking. Pinging alone is nothing, but uploading malicious code, which is impossible unless you know the username and password of the server of the website you are trying to hack, is another thing.