Definition

cracker

A cracker is someone who breaks into someone else's computer system, often on a network; bypasses passwords or licenses in computer programs; or in other ways intentionally breaches computer security. A cracker can be doing this for profit, maliciously, for some altruistic purpose or cause, or because the challenge is there. Some breaking-and-entering has been done ostensibly to point out weaknesses in a site's security system.

The term "cracker" is not to be confused with "hacker". Hackers generally deplore cracking. However, as Eric Raymond, compiler of The New Hacker's Dictionary notes, some journalists ascribe break-ins to "hackers."

A classic story of the tracking down of a cracker on the Internet who was breaking into U.S. military and other computers is told in Clifford Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg.

Contributor(s): Hans Sjoholm
This was last updated in June 2007
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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