A pet peeve of mine, for a while, has been the misuse of the term “Hacker” when people are in fact referring to a “Cracker”. This has been going on for years, and I believe if unjustly fuels a prejudice against the hacker community; and by vilifying honest members of academia, allows governments to unjustly outlaw and prosecute otherwise upstanding members of society.
What’s the difference?
There’s a fine line between a Hacker and a Cracker. A Hacker is someone who explores, studies, researches, and learns. Through any subject of study, the majority of innovators are Hackers in the simplest terms. A culinary student who explores mixing two unprecedented flavors is Hacking away. A programmer who develops new algorithms, or explores closed systems is a Hacker. A sysadmin who builds a new service by cobbling two old services together is a Hacker. An automotive technician who sticks a Ford engine into a Chevy is a Hacker. It’s simply a matter of pushing the boundaries of accepted wisdom and knowledge. Trying something new. Ignoring the documented facts and saying “We can do more”.
A Cracker, on the other hand, may do some or all of these things. A Cracker is usually a computer hacker. Most specifically, a rogue hacker. A Cracker is a person who uses their hacking skills to “Do Evil”. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with hacking into the Playstation Network, for example. You explore the systems, learn how their security works, and how you might make your own better. When you cross the border and download databases, publish exploits, or steal real money or information, however, you’ve now done something “evil” and have crossed the boundary into being a Cracker.