How to Discern Between Crackers and Hackers
While the pejorative term “hacker” has become largely synonymous with one who has malicious motivations, the more appropriate appellation is “cracker”. The difference lies in the fact that hackers (a.k.a. white hat hackers) are by and large internet security experts who create better security procedures and policies using computer programming code, or who are paid to find security flaws in system networks. Cracker is the word for a black hat hacker, and exclusively denotes a person of ill intent who breaks into computer networks in order to steal and exploit the data found within them. A cracker usually has as-extensive knowledge as a hacker but chooses to abuse that knowledge for monetary gain, or has some dark cause of action, or because they like the challenge, which suits their egos.
The M.O. of crackers includes:
- Destruction or theft of data files
- Theft of credit card numbers and other financial info
- Delivery of viruses, malware, spyware, and other malicious programs
- Exploitation and sale of stolen personally-identifiable information
- ID theft for the purposes of false impersonation
- Reverse-engineering and modifying software for their own “kicks”
- Social engineering or corporate espionage to gain access to a particular network
- Primarily malicious behavior identifies them
The earmarks of a traditional hacker include:
- They work for a legitimate outfit or organization
- They detect security or cyber defense leaks and plugs them up
- They are paid big dollars by large corporate or government organizations to locate cybersecurity holes and close them
- They often work in direct opposition to crackers
- They can do just as much breaking into data centers and networks, though usually for the benefit of the business or network owners
- Are most often programmers
- Freely share what they have discovered
Clearing the Air About Hackers
Tech Target provides clearly distinct definitions for hackers as opposed to crackers. They write in their article, “The Difference Between Hackers and Crackers” that there are generally two major types of crackers. The first type is much rarer than the second. They are the expert crackers who discover new security holes and subsequently write programs to exploit them. The second type, referred to in programming circles as a “script kiddie,” only knows how to get these programs and run them. Script kiddies far outnumber expert crackers, but are much easier to detect and stop.
The Tech Target article also goes into extensive detail about how crackers use social engineering techniques to finagle access information out of, often times, the very help desk IT people designed to safeguard business networks. The short version of they do this is they will call the company, get the help desk number, call the IT support help desk and explain that they are IT contractors working offsite and need certain passwords or other access codes for that company’s data center or network. These social engineering techniques have been largely successful because many help desk people don’t scrutinize these con-men’s credentials, as they should.
Further Information on Hackers and Crackers
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