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Hackers and Crackers

In the last ten years or so the distinction between a hacker and a cracker has largely disappeared (at least in the public eye). I know that this rant will not turn the tables, but I still think separating the two groups was a useful thing.

I used to be a hacker. Hackers are not inherently the Bad Guys. Hackers are simply very curious people and they know their systems (hard and/or soft, there are hackers in all three camps) very well. This means they can do all sorts of funny things with them… and some of these things are most certainly not what the original manufacturers intended — or even thought possible.

Sometimes this proficiency can lead an over-zealous hacker into trouble. But no self-respecting hacker would ever break into a system for his own profit or with malicious intent. (He might break into a computer system, okay, but most probably with the idea to show the people who are responsible how unsafe their crap^Hsystem is: he actually tries to help them.)

For hackers, money is at best a side-show (more often than not it's a complete irrelevancy); what counts for them is analysing and understanding complex systems in the deepest possible way. This they do by building, extending and manipulating a mental model of the system: a hacker frequently understands a piece of code he has unearthed from goodness knows where in ways its creator never will.

A cracker, on the other hand, does all sorts of evil things. A cracker wants to destroy, hurt, steal, get rich quick, et cetera. A cracker is what the public nowadays calls a hacker. It's a fine line, perhaps, but there's a line nevertheless.

See the Jargon File for more enlightenment.

$updated from: Hackers and Crackers.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:14:24 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$