Hackers v. Crackers

Borrowed from Tourbus

Date: August 09, 2004
Author: Patrick Douglas Crispen

A couple people wondered why, in my last two posts, I referred to people who break into computers as "crackers" instead of "hackers." I hope you don't mind the slight detour, but...

On the first day of the Normandy invasion, the Allied troops used a verbal challenge to determine friend from foe: "Flash ? Thunder ? Welcome." If you didn't know the appropriate response, or if you pronounced "welcome" with a v, the 101st Airborne graciously put some extra holes in you. The verbal challenge was a shibboleth, a test to prove that you belonged.

The computing world's shibboleth is how you define the word "hacker." People who know nothing about computers, especially people in the media, use the word "hacker" a pejorative to describe

A person who uses his skill with computers to try to gain unauthorized access to computer files or networks

[Source: Oxford English Dictionary]

So, most people think hackers are BAD! That's cool, but COMPLETELY wrong. INSIDE the computing world, the term hacker is actually highly complimentary, respectfully used to describe

A person with an enthusiasm for programming or using computers as an end in itself.

[Source: Oxford English Dictionary]

So, inside the computing world, hackers are GOOD! If you call a guru a hacker, she'll thank you. You've complimented her.

What do people inside the computer world call people who compromise the security of a computer without your permission? Well, besides calling them words and phrases questioning the legitimacy of these criminals' parentage and implying that these criminals have intimate relations with their mothers, most computer gurus call these people "crackers."

Remember, in the computer world

- A "hacker" is a brilliant and respected computer programmer or technical expert

- A "cracker" is someone who tries to break into your computer or files without your knowledge and/or permission.

And your number one job as a home computer user is to keep the crackers out of your computer.