The slight difference between hacking and cracking

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Liquid Data
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Postby Liquid Data » Thu Jul 17, 2003 8:37 pm

First of all, I tried the forum search, but didn't find anything about this. Hopefully a topic similar to this doesn't already exist without me noticing. :)

Second: I beg for your patience. This is going to be a longer post, and there may be mistakes in spelling and grammar, which shouldn't concern you, for English is not my native tongue.

Now let's get to the point.

After playing Uplink for a while, I got extremely curious about the techniques and possibilities of "real" hacking - not that I want to try it out for myself. I have no intention to become a hacker, cracker, script kiddie or whatever. I'm just interested in IT security.

So I went to Google™ and searched for information about hacking, but couldn't find anything usefull. Very well, I proceeded to Google Groups™. And while reading a posting at alt.hack, I stumbled over the somewhat enlightening FAQ "How to become a hacker", by Eric Steven Raymond.

If you didn't already know it, I recommend to take a close look at it: http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html

After this lecture, I found myself extremely baffled. According to the FAQ, to become a hacker you need to...

1) ...love to solve problems, esspecially those that had never been solved before.
2) ...be a good programmer.
3) ...have a strong attitude for freedom and be against censorship and the likes, but not loathe any kind of authority in general.
4) ...share your work with others, to gain status in the so-called "Hacker Culture".
5) ...not hide yourself behind nicknames or pseudonymes.

That's it. Not even a single word about breaking into other people's systems, code cracking, website defacement, theft and/or destruction of data, manipulating records and the like.

Why not? Because none of these actions is suitable for a hacker. These things are done by crackers, not hackers. As most people, I only knew the term "hacking" referring to computer fraud. And I was really surprised to learn that being a hacker has nothing to do with crime, but with creativity and an open mind.

Uplink is a game about cracking, not hacking. If someone breaks into a Microsoft server and steals part of the Windows source code (yes, I know this really happend... muhahaha!), it's cracking - not hacking. Only a few people (mostly the "true" hackers themselves) seem to know about this difference. Not really a big surprise, if you remember how the word "hacking" is misused by the media, by movies and novels, even by experienced security experts (often without knowing that "cracking" is the word they are supposed to use instead).

How could this happen, I wonder, if all the "real" hackers out there, the honourable members of the Hacking Community, who built the internet, who contributed to the creation and development of Unix and Linux, who made Open Source what it is now - if they have no intention to harm anyone (or anyone's data), and never had?

How do they feel if they read about the crimes and frauds the so-called "hackers" commited? Missunderstood, angry, or perhaps deeply sad?

Let me know what you think about it (again: only if this hadn't been discussed before in these forums ^^), and if you already knew the surprising means of "true hacking" - or if you thought that "Break into a rival computer system and steal research data" is exactly what "hacking" should be (like I did). Maybe there are members of this famous "Hacker Culture" around? (Hey, wouldn't that be great... but somewhat unlikely for them, if I think about it. :P)

(Edited by Liquid Data at 9:38 pm on July 17, 2003)
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2003 8:55 pm

Well this has been discussed before, but with the heavy pruning of the forums the topics may no longer be searchable.  

The difference is a signifigant one.  It largely started with the advent of time-sharing systems and multi-user OS's (like Unix).  Most of the university guys (who developed the Internet and most of modern computing) had been used to open access to their systems and did not like the limits of password protected data, and user permissions.  Some used their "hacking" skills, to embed backdoors into these systems (master passwords and the like) in hopes of undermining the systems and returning to the old freedoms.  People also began trying to figure out how the phone system worked (partly because they had to be able to maintain the phone connections for the early Internet, which the phone companies did not always want to do).  As people learned more they began to experiment, ie see if they could call some of the odd phone numbers they found existed (and ending up calling secret government bunkers and the like).  These began innocently, people just exploring these new intellectual landscapes.  Eventually people found out bad things could be done as well, and people's egos took over and competition took on more of a violent nature (not physical as much as hacking rivals computers and such).  Then as more sensitive (and valuable) information began being stored on computers people found they could take it.  Somewhere in hear people crossed the line between "hacking" and "cracking".  Then "hackers" became "crackers".  Today with automated cracking tools, more often than not the "cracker" has little or no "hacking" skills.  A hacker loves information and control, a cracker loves prestige and power.  :)
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Postby Deepsmeg » Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:06 pm

I couldn't have said it better, you spammy git :P
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Postby Liquid Data » Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:23 pm

Applause! :D That was indeed a clean explanation. Do you know any sites that deal with the history of hacking and cracking (and esspecially the connection between the two)? I would love to read more about this.

Besides, I had no idea that topics are frequently pruned here.
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Postby Flamekebab » Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:44 pm

Not frequently - for ages there was no pruning - but in recent times they've been taking up to much space - so the really ancient topics were deleted.
Also - I like information, control, prestige AND power. What does that make me?
A "chracker"?
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:45 pm

I have yet to find a decent website on the subject.  There are a lot out there but most focus on cracking headlines, and fail to address the origins of the phenomenon.  There are several good book however.  The best one I have found is Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet.  It is a brilliant book about the origins of the Internet.  Another very good book is Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy, a great book about the MIT hackers who gave birth to the hacking/cracking movement.  It also directly addresses the "hacker"/"cracker" arguement.  :)

(Edited by Stewsburntmonkey at 3:55 pm on July 17, 2003)
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Postby cylence » Thu Jul 17, 2003 9:52 pm

For a most *excellent* retelling of the history of hacking, phreacking, carding and cracking (I *think* all those were in there), but mostly of hacking; as well as (necessarily) the history of home computing, see Steven Levy's "Hackers":

  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... ce&s=books

A very thorough and accurate coverage of how hacking got its start. COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN. Still one of the single best books I've ever read. At the time, I was also living in Palo Alto, which made it that much easier to appreciate.
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Postby Darkshine » Thu Jul 17, 2003 10:00 pm

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Last edited by Darkshine on Tue Nov 03, 2015 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Stewsburntmonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2003 10:06 pm

Yes, this is true, but the conceptual distiction is still there.  Most people are mis-informed about the nature of the "hacking" community and so blindly use what the media throws at them.  There is a definite distiction to be made, and it is easiest to use these common words to do so.  If you are in a comp. sci. community the most popular definition of a hacker is much different from the most popular definition among the general public.  I don't think it is useful to argue what the exact meaning of the words are (as you can never come to any real conclusion on that), but what the basic concepts are.  :)    
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Postby Darkshine » Thu Jul 17, 2003 10:22 pm

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Postby Octavious » Fri Jul 18, 2003 12:29 am

I think I like Darkshine; he knows how language works. This topic has come up a number of times, and I will now proceed to give the same response I did when I saw this topic in the past.
"Hacking" versus "cracking" as an arguement is moot. Under the basic axiom of language theory, any language is nothing more than a way of communicating and evolves with its utilizing population. Thus if any majority or signifigant minority of said population agrees on any definition of any word ("hacking", "cracking", "<insert any other word here>", it makes no difference), the definition of that word is that which is agreed upon. (You can find more on this topic in almost any automata theory or language theory book.) So whatever you would like to call it, "hacking" (which I am using because it is the most commonly associated word) is illegal.
Regaurdless as to if you do any damage or not, gaining access to any information which belongs to another person who does not want you to access it is illegal.
And while I may be a staunch opponent to censorship, protecting information is vastly different from protecting people from information. It is one thing to disallow people access to anything thats owner would rather those people not access; it is another to disallow people access to anything thats owner would rather those people access. This is a fine but important distinction.
Also, please don't start idolizing those early "hackers". They were breaking the law too; Undermining university systems to regain lost "freedoms" and defrauding the phone system in order to "understand" it were illegal actions. I'm posting this not to say that your "hackers" were neccisarily wrong, nor that the law is necissarily right, only that you should not think things different than they are. These "hackers" were and continue to be criminals.
I also am an advocate of civil disobedience. Therefore if anyone thinks the current laws are wrong, they may  (and perhaps should) resort to being criminals, as any legal attacks on the current ownership laws are doomed to failure in our current society.
I hear the anarcysts now: "the whole oppressive system is wrong, how can its laws be right?" And they maight be right. However try to understand that society (and subsequently government and laws) evolve with us, the constituants.
If we as people will ever be capable of living without laws is not something I can answer; but as of now we cannot.
Understand finally that if your "heroic hackers" have a right to civil disobediance, so do your "powerhungry crackers". Perhaps this will give you a respect for our laws.
I may not be a computer scientists (math, physics, and social science are my passions), I've spent some time on computer science and thus with computer scientists (by default), and they have the same definition of "hacker" as the rest of us (which includes "criminal"). The only people with any other definition are those "hackers" who perfer to think of themselves as fine upstanding citizens (or even heros), not brigands who do damage (regaurdless of intent) to our current society (for right or wrong).
For all those "hackers" (or anyone else, whatever you may call yourself, who has gained unathorized access to information), own up to your actions. I've broken laws I disagreed with, admit to doing the same if you like, but more importantly admit to being criminals. Most people who use this perverted definition of "hacker" say they belive in honor. Show me.

(Edited by Octavious at 12:30 am on July 18, 2003)


(Edited by Octavious at 12:31 am on July 18, 2003)
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Postby Octavious » Fri Jul 18, 2003 12:32 am

stupid emotions
If at first you don't succed, find a bigger hammer.
For my government, I want Democracy. For my society, I want Socialism. For myself, I want Anarchy.
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Postby Dezmond » Fri Jul 18, 2003 8:53 am

You know what I am going to do now, so those of you sensitive to this topic turn away.
go to http://www.moltenmainframes.tk

Not just now though, as the site is currently temporary and undergoing renovation. However, in about 3 weeks the new site will be finished with new updated and corrected tutorials. Also, by then, Molten Mainframes Application should be finished and available for download.
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Postby Darksun » Fri Jul 18, 2003 10:42 am

OK, basically Molten Mainframes is full of crap, out of date stolen tutorials and fake screenshots of an OS. I mean, this guy says he's made a full OS, but then goes and asks us for a beginners C++ tutorial.

And I usually use the term 'hacker' for someone who breaks into computers, weather legal or not. This is because hacker is now common usage and is in the Oxford dictionay. Simple as :P
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Postby Dezmond » Fri Jul 18, 2003 10:45 am

No , just a good C++ tutorial. Anyway, your definition of hacking is wrong, and a lot of people here will tell you that. Out of date stolen tutorials are not on my site, I merely borrowed bits in places.

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