How to Tell Someone is a Hacker or a Cracker

First of all, before liberally label some cyber criminals ‘hackers’, let me tell you how “hacker” and “cracker” carry slightly yet important difference of meaning. The first has gotten its notoriety these recent years because laymen like me only know that hackers tend to commit hateful, law-violating crimes such as intruding into your personal web accounts by finding your overly predictable and simple passwords.

But wait a minute! As hacker anthropologist Eric Raymond puts it, hackers DO know how to make things. They’re geniuses who have a knack for computers, who pay attention to what normal uninformed un-geeky Internet and computer users would ignore (for instance, the importance of making a relatively solid and unpredictable password). A cracker, on the other hand, is one who annoys millions of Internet users these days with illegal selfish actions like phishing, financial information theft, sites defacing, etc. In short, Eric tells, hackers are usually good, crackers bad.

Crackers, says Eric, are defined as people who break into computer systems, commit vandalism and computer crimes. They’re generally neither very bright nor very skilled. “You can distinguish them (crackers) from hackers by the fact that they typically use a username or handle to describe their identities. Hackers don’t do this,” added he. “Hackers make things, crackers only know how to break them.”

Geeks like one named “Cold Fire” and “Captain Zap” are disowned by him. They simply don’t belong to the hacker group after some stunts causing hackers in general to lose trust and respect from society.

If you’re writing or reading a news article on cyber crimes, and find one of the victims of crackers on social media sites like Hajriyanto Thohari labelling the criminal “hacker”, remember always this distinction. These culprits are not computer geniuses, but only some silly youths with no academic background and computer expertise. They download a software from the web spread on forums (like “Hacker Indonesia” on Facebook) and misuse it to exploit some unlucky Internet users.

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