Hacker VS Cracker
#1
Foreword: I believe it's important that a working definition for the two terms be given before I begin my question. For now, I will be using the definition for "hacker" as given in the jargon file (http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker.html) as well as the one for "cracker" as given (http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/C/cracker.html).

I've noticed lately that the term "cracker" isn't commonly used now a days, even among those "in the know". Now keep in mind I'm not exactly a social butterfly, and I'm still new to the social aspect of hacker culture, so I was wondering if this is just a recent thing or if this has always been the case. I don't figure the jargon file is a end all be all when it comes to terminology, but it seems like "hacking" has now been expanded to encompass what would normally be described as "cracking".

Now on to my actual question, I'm curious what exactly has caused this if this is indeed the case. Has the word "cracker" ever been used as given? Is this a effect of the media overusing the term "hacker"? Has this been caused by the act of hacking being seen as more of a legitimate act in the form of computer security experts? Is this an effect of the term "cracking" being used more for software cracking and game cracking? Or maybe it's been a bit of everything? Or something else entirely?

This thread is meant more as a way to stimulate conversation than to come to any real consensus as the actual solving of this question would be incredibly difficult and not really the point of my asking of it.
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#2
(05-21-2020, 11:25 PM)EpochRoot Wrote: Foreword: I believe it's important that a working definition for the two terms be given before I begin my question. For now, I will be using the definition for "hacker" as given in the jargon file (http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker.html) as well as the one for "cracker" as given (http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/C/cracker.html).

I've noticed lately that the term "cracker" isn't commonly used now a days, even among those "in the know". Now keep in mind I'm not exactly a social butterfly, and I'm still new to the social aspect of hacker culture, so I was wondering if this is just a recent thing or if this has always been the case. I don't figure the jargon file is a end all be all when it comes to terminology, but it seems like "hacking" has now been expanded to encompass what would normally be described as "cracking".

Now on to my actual question, I'm curious what exactly has caused this if this is indeed the case. Has the word "cracker" ever been used as given? Is this a effect of the media overusing the term "hacker"? Has this been caused by the act of hacking being seen as more of a legitimate act in the form of computer security experts? Is this an effect of the term "cracking" being used more for software cracking and game cracking? Or maybe it's been a bit of everything? Or something else entirely?

I started "hacking" around 1998? 1999? In the last 21-22 years cracker has never had *widespread* use in wider society in regards to ESR's definition. People within the ethical hacking community in the past pushed for those definitions of hacker/cracker to distinguish themselves. But that never *really* took. And I don't think I've heard an ethical hacker insist on the use of cracker in reference to unethical hacking since probably 2006.

I believe cracker is now generally is used to refer specifically to people who crack software licensing and similar rights protection systems. the use of "hats" has really become the defacto system within the hacking/security community for defining the ethical motives behind a hackers actions. It has some use in the media as well, but generally it's just "hacker".

In my own personal opinion, the definition of "hacker" hasn't really changed much in the last 2+ decades. The only thing I think has really changed is that "hacker" no longer has as much social stigma/negative connotation as it did in the past. And don't get me wrong, "hacker" definitely still has a negative connotation in context. but I don't think people necessarily think "oh no, stay away from me. im calling the police. you're gonna steal all my private information" when I tell them im a hacker. the reaction is usually "cool." and then a whole ton of questions.
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#3
I've never heard the term cracker used a in that way. It usually refers to people who crack software like muddybucket said. I've also heard it used to mean people that do more online account attack type of stuff. I think the black/grey/white hat system is the replacement for hacker vs cracker. Black hats are essentially the same as crackers, whites and greys are hackers. As far aa the media and the general public go, people are lazy. They aren't going to take the time to learn the difference between cracker vs hacker. It's easier to see people who are doing (in the public's eyes) the same thing and attach a single term to it. Which is why the hat system has caught on. It subcategorizes hackers instead of trying to attach a new term to malicious attackers.

I've told people I'm a hacker before. Even people I've known for a long time and know I'm not a criminal ask if I'm going to steal their identity or their credit card info. Sometimes it is asked jokingly and sometimes not so much. Now I default to just telling people I like to use computers and I know more than your average person.
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#4
Ah it seems my first instinct was right, as I said I had the feeling that the jargon file wasn't exactly the definitive source on the meaning of these words.

In the same vein, I was wondering what everyone's opinion was on using cracker/cracking in regards to specifically breaking computer security? I feel like with how amorphous the word hacker has become, even starting to apply to things other than computers (life hacks, people hacking AKA social engineering, etc) that it would be nice to have a term that is a subset of hacking, which applies only to computers. Obviously I don't exactly have the means to popularize this usage of the word, but it's a nice thought anyway :-)
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#5
I don't remember but I'm pretty sure the jargon file was written a while ago. I agree with a lot of what's in it. But the idea of language is to communicate. If you use a term for something that nobody else does, you're missing the point of communication. So you could call criminals that can use computers crackers all you want. But if it doesn't get what you're trying to communicate across or you have to explain it then it's pointless.
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#6
(05-23-2020, 12:35 AM)EpochRoot Wrote: Ah it seems my first instinct was right, as I said I had the feeling that the jargon file wasn't exactly the definitive source on the meaning of these words.

In the same vein, I was wondering what everyone's opinion was on using cracker/cracking in regards to specifically breaking computer security? I feel like with how amorphous the word hacker has become, even starting to apply to things other than computers (life hacks, people hacking AKA social engineering, etc) that it would be nice to have a term that is a subset of hacking, which applies only to computers. Obviously I don't exactly have the means to popularize this usage of the word, but it's a nice thought anyway :-)

I think that if the term hacker caught on to mean an artistic coder like the guys who invented Linux, but could include crackers (who could be white, grey, or black hat) then I think that would work a lot better in terms of catching on.

Cracker would just have to be a subcategory of hacker.

But I think people are too lazy to even implement that.

In a perfect world, an individual and their actions define them and not a hat color, but we would have crackers as a subcategory of hackers. But people certainly won't do that.

"Hackers" as the people who make things never caught on in the media because its not as cool as someone breaking into a computer.

I think someone who is both a hacker and a cracker should just be called a "hacker." I think that system works. But I don't see how you convince people to do it.
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#7
(05-23-2020, 12:35 AM)EpochRoot Wrote: even starting to apply to things other than computers (life hacks, people hacking AKA social engineering, etc) 

I think you have it backwards. The concept of "Hacking" (modifying/forcing something to do something it wasn't designed to do) does not originate in computing. 

So "Computer hacking" is the subset to "hacking" that specifically refers to computing. 


(05-23-2020, 02:35 AM)Dismal_0x8 Wrote:
I don't remember but I'm pretty sure the jargon file was written a while ago. 

I believe it's still being updated - but the first jargon file was written ~40+ years ago.
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