The slight difference between hacking and cracking

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Dezmond
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Postby Dezmond » Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:39 pm

But an expert's definition is different to the ordinary definition! Argh! /me goes insane
Who cares? I think hacking means one thing, you think it means another, and we both think we're right. Lets just leave it and get on with our lives in peace. :)
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Postby Agent Rebellion » Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:43 pm

Lol However, as previously pointed out, the dictionary can often by about as helpful as a fart in a spacesuit. And Dman's right. One person thinks one thing, another thinks another. If hackers want to ramantisize themselves and other peopel condemn them, then ok lol. After all, people exaggerate all the time lol
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:47 pm

I should point out many in CS field still make the distiction.  Example:  When I entered my last CS class on the first day the professor asked if there were any C++ hackers in the room, this had nothing to do with gaining unauthorized access to information, just programming in a language.  

As for the dictionary arguement here are some dictionary definitions:

On-line Dictionary of Computing:

<person, jargon> (Originally, someone who makes furniture with
an axe) 1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of
programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as
opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum
necessary.

2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who
enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about
programming.

3. A person capable of appreciating hack value.

4. A person who is good at programming quickly.

5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently
does work using it or on it; as in "a Unix hacker".
(Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit
them congregate.)

6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an
astronomy hacker, for example.

7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively
overcoming or circumventing limitations.

8. (Deprecated) A malicious meddler who tries to discover
sensitive information by poking around. Hence "password
hacker", "network hacker". The correct term is cracker.

Oxford English Dictionary (apparently some people overlooked this one):

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

Obviously looking at the dictionary definition will prove nothing, in this case.


There is a definite distiction to be made between those who are very good at examining and manipulating systems, and those who break into systems.  The arguement being made is a valid linguistic arguement, but does not address the issue of the underlying distinction which has to be made.  Most of the early "hackers" were doing nothing illegal, or even inmoral.  They were playing around with different systems in a totally legitimate way.  To say they were all doing things illegaly is to show ones ignorance on the subject.  This is like saying all locksmiths are burglars, or all business men are criminals, it is absurd.  As stated hacking does not even need to involve the internet (it was around well before the Internet after all).  There is an underlying distiction to be made reguardless of what terms are used.  :)

(Edited by Stewsburntmonkey at 8:48 am on July 18, 2003)
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Postby Agent Rebellion » Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:49 pm

But it still refers to a tea chest as a chest that stores tea lol which is very direct but not very helpful lmao. sorry I just felt like pointing that out a third time. :D
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Postby Liquid Data » Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:56 pm

According to the definition of "hacker" in the FAQ by Steven Raymond, you don't have to be a criminal, i. e. commit illegal acts, to fit the term. Being "anti-authorical" does not include being a criminal. There are enough legal ways to fight against censorship and the bad habit of hiding information from others, esspecially the "common citizen", like so many companies do. Only two words: Open Source.

If I didn't completly missunderstood Raymond's words, I would consider Linus Torvalds a hacker. People that develop new mods for, let's say, Mozilla, are hackers, too. And what a coincidence! All those numerous mods and code changes created for vBulletin, phpBB and other bulletin board systems are referred to as "hacks".

Correct me if I'm talking nonsense. But from the few things I've currently read about the original meaning of "hacking", I came to believe there is no reason to criminalize the whole community of hackers. Of course, there may be some individuals (or let's better say many) who seem to abuse their programming skills, and who don't care for the restrictions of the law at all. Sad, really sad.

As Dman already mentioned above, we all have our own definitions. To some of us, hacking still means what it was originally supposed to mean, while others - certainly the most - think of it as a definition of most kinds of computer crime.

Btw, never trust a dictionary. ;) It only reflects the current public usage of words (as bgreene2001 already wrote), and the definitions in a dictionary may even change completly if the public usage of a certain word variies.

To give a simple, but certainly convincing example: Take a present-day German dictionary and one from around 1940 and look up the word "Jew" in both. Got the point? (I know this may not be the best example - not only OT but a sensitive topic as well - but it was simply the one I had instantly in mind).

(Edited by Liquid Data at 2:57 pm on July 18, 2003)
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Postby Phydaux » Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:22 pm

You all post fair points.

I suppose it depends on the context of the word, for what it actually means. (As with most of the English language)

Quote: Stewsburntmonkey wrote[br]Oxford English Dictionary (apparently some people overlloked this one):

3. a. A person with an enthusiasm for programming or using computers as an end in itself.
My dictonary dosn't have this defination, but it is a year old.
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Postby Octavious » Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:39 pm

My point is merely that the definition of a word is the definition that the users of that word agree on. You can use whatever definition you like, but if you want to be able to converse with the rest of us, use the one we do. Which for the most part in my case is the Oxford English Dictionary one.
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:51 pm

But my point is the dictionary has both definitions.  You can't use the commonly agreed upon definition because there isn't one.  You have to infer from the context what is meant.  Just look at the phenomenon of auto-antonymy, a word being its own opposite.  So when one speaks of "cleaving", you have use the context to figure out if they are speaking of dividing or joining.  "Oversight" and "overlook" are also auto-antonyms, as are "quantum", "trim", and "skin".  The dictionary simply provides all accepted uses of the word (and is generally behind the times).  :)
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Postby Agent Rebellion » Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:57 pm

lol You've digressed entirely from the subject of Hacking and cracking into the English Language lol. Losing track of the sibjects are we not?
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:59 pm

Well that is at the heart what the hacker/cracker debate is largely about.  :)
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Postby Deepsmeg » Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:59 pm

* remembers abck to school *
Teacher was handing back work...
I was notorious for not doing any
Teacher gives work to the girl sitting next to me:
"<name>, your work was outstanding."
looks to me
"<name>, your work is outstanding."

multiple definitions... same basic context...
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Postby Octavious » Fri Jul 18, 2003 5:16 pm

This is all rediculous. People who dub themselves "hackers" are not necissarily criminals, but people society dubs "hackers" are. Do not get caught up in definitions; think points of view, for that is where definitions are made; society calls the descriptions many of you hacker defenders are giving "computer programers", "software engineers", "computer scientists", and a slew of other names with a positive conotation; use those.
Also, for whatever the reason, intent to do damage or no, regaurdless of understanding or any other motive, getting around security ("limitations") is illegal, because the information is implied private if it is protected. Any attempt to remove that protection is illegal. Argue that the law is wrong if you like, but understand that "hacking" is illegal, and if you do it, you are a criminal. But if the law is wrong, those "crackers" will also be allowed to continue their actions. Honour is nice, but not something society can put its trust in.

(Edited by Octavious at 5:19 pm on July 18, 2003)
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Fri Jul 18, 2003 5:43 pm

Well if get around security people allow you too there is no problem, wargames for instance are hacking (no matter what definition is used) and are not illegal.  Also hacking the regestry of your personal Windows system is generally considered hacking and again not illegal.  Breaking into a computer you have not been given permission to do so on is illegal, but that is not the same as saying hacking is illegal.  Breaking into someone's house without permission is illegal, a locksmith picking the lock so the homeowners can get their keys is not.  You don't say locksmithing is illegal and so you can't say hacking is illegal.  :)
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Postby Octavious » Fri Jul 18, 2003 8:01 pm

It's fine, in so far as the law is concerned, to "hack" (if that is what you would like to call it) your own system, assuming you do own or have permission from the owner of that which you brake into. I did say, I beleve that the word you use is irrelevant. Whatever you would like to call yourself, society generally associates the word "hacker" with cyber-criminal. The important point I wanted to convey was that gaining unathorized access to information you don't own is illegal, whatever the reason, even without any desire to do damage, even if the reason is nothing more than learning. I do not mean to pass judgement on those who would break any law they disagree with; that is one way things change. I personally beleve the current laws regaurding information are well suited to human society, but please stand up for your belefs whatever they may be and further human democracy. Also, the Windows registry thing may well be illegal; Microsoft has some wierd licensing.
I may have gotten a bit far from my original point: it does not matter what you call it; "hacking" verses "cracking" is a moot arguement.
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Fri Jul 18, 2003 8:13 pm

But see you yourself just made the distinction.  You are totally correct that hacker now generally conotes a cybercriminal, but there is still a distinction to be made among the learned between cybercriminals and what (for lack of a better term) is known as a hacker.  A hacker is not just (or even) a computer expert, it is an idea and method.  It is based on curiosity and innovation.  You can be a great computer expert without having even the slightest bit of curiosity or creativity.  Right now "hacker" is the only word that denotes this kind of curious, creative systems person.  That is why there is a debate.  No one is arguing that you can legally break into a system you are not authorized to access.  On the contrary what people are arguing is exactly that this kind of "hacking" is illegal and does not fit in with the "hacker ethic", thus it should be labeled as "cracking".  :)

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