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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary (also found in English - Vietnamese, English - English (Wordnet), )
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jargon An individual who attempts to gain unauthorised
access to a computer system. These individuals are often
malicious and have many means at their disposal for breaking
into a system. The term was coined ca. 1985 by hackers in
defence against journalistic misuse of "hacker". An earlier
attempt to establish "worm" in this sense around 1981--82 on
Usenet was largely a failure.
Use of both these neologisms reflects a strong revulsion
against the theft and vandalism perpetrated by cracking rings.
The neologism "cracker" in this sense may have been influenced
not so much by the term "safe-cracker" as by the non-jargon
term "cracker", which in Middle English meant an obnoxious
person (e.g., "What cracker is this same that deafs our ears /
With this abundance of superfluous breath?" -- Shakespeare's
King John, Act II, Scene I) and in modern colloquial American
English survives as a barely gentler synonym for "white
While it is expected that any real hacker will have done some
playful cracking and knows many of the basic techniques,
anyone past larval stage is expected to have outgrown the
desire to do so except for immediate practical reasons (for
example, if it's necessary to get around some security in
order to get some work done).
Contrary to widespread myth, cracking does not usually involve
some mysterious leap of hackerly brilliance, but rather
persistence and the dogged repetition of a handful of fairly
well-known tricks that exploit common weaknesses in the
security of target systems. Accordingly, most crackers are
only mediocre hackers.
Thus, there is far less overlap between hackerdom and
crackerdom than the mundane reader misled by
sensationalistic journalism might expect. Crackers tend to
gather in small, tight-knit, very secretive groups that have
little overlap with the huge, open hacker poly-culture; though
crackers often like to describe *themselves* as hackers, most
true hackers consider them a separate and lower form of life,
little better than virus writers. Ethical considerations
aside, hackers figure that anyone who can't imagine a more
interesting way to play with their computers than breaking
into someone else's has to be pretty losing.