Hackers Are Good, Crackers (NOT White People) Are Bad

I’ve been receiving some negative emails from some at Free Republic because of the title of yesterday’s post, Crackers Steal Med Records; Blackmail Gov’t. I can now see why Fox News used the incorrect term in their report, FBI Probes Hacker’s $10 Million Ransom Demand for Stolen Virginia Medical Records as not to upset the ignorant.

According to SearchSecurity.com,

A cracker is someone who breaks into someone else’s computer system, often on a network; bypasses passwords or licenses in computer programs; or in other ways intentionally breaches computer security. A cracker can be doing this for profit, maliciously, for some altruistic purpose or cause, or because the challenge is there. Some breaking-and-entering has been done ostensibly to point out weaknesses in a site’s security system.

The term “cracker” is not to be confused with “hacker”. Hackers generally deplore cracking. However, as Eric Raymond, compiler of The New Hacker’s Dictionary notes, some journalists ascribe break-ins to “hackers.”


Here’s the often misused term,

Hacker is a term used by some to mean “a clever programmer” and by others, especially those in popular media, to mean “someone who tries to break into computer systems.”

1) Eric Raymond, compiler of The New Hacker’s Dictionary, defines a hacker as a clever programmer. A “good hack” is a clever solution to a programming problem and “hacking” is the act of doing it. Raymond lists five possible characteristics that qualify one as a hacker, which we paraphrase here:

* A person who enjoys learning details of a programming language or system

* A person who enjoys actually doing the programming rather than just theorizing about it

* A person capable of appreciating someone else’s hacking

* A person who picks up programming quickly

* A person who is an expert at a particular programming language or system, as in “Unix hacker”

Raymond deprecates the use of this term for someone who attempts to crack someone else’s system or otherwise uses programming or expert knowledge to act maliciously. He prefers the term cracker for this meaning.

When creating yesterday’s post, I thought about mimicking Fox News’ incorrect use of the work “hacker”, but I assumed those on the right, not encumbered by political correctness and thin skins. In some cases, I appear to have been wrong.

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