Jay Maynard (jmaynard) wrote,
Jay Maynard

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Why "hacker" vs. "cracker" matters

From an interview Eric Raymond gave a conference call of Prudential Securities investors, 15 October 2003:

The word “hacker”: some of you have probably been misled by lazy journalists into thinking that hackers are people who break into computer systems. This is a vulgar error. “Hacker” properly refers to somebody who is an enthusiast at programming, an artist about it. It started to be abused by journalists around 1985, and this is actually a point that matters because there are two different cultures out there, one of which is the one I come from. That is the hackers. We are the Unix developers. We are the people who built the World Wide Web and most of the Internet infrastructure. We build things.

There's another culture out there, the people we call “crackers”, who are the people who actually run around producing viruses and breaking into systems and doing things like SoBig, and they break things. That's the fundamental difference. We build things, they break them.

Understanding that distinction is important because to the extent that people confuse those two cultures, they set up conditions under which we could see some very nasty laws passed that would eventually have a bad impact on peoples’ ability to communicate and eventually even their political freedom. So that's a good reason to be a little careful about that confusion.

The next time you see somebody claiming that a hacker is a person who breaks into computer systems, please correct them. It may be your own freedom that you're saving.

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