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Hacking and Cracking

Law Centrum

9 Jun 2022

Hackers are autodidacts – a person who looks at systematic knowledge structures and learns about them from making or doing [1]. The term hacking is a metaphor which is often misused in public disclosure. The technical community distinguishes between a hacker and a cracker, although the media misrepresents the two phrases. Hacker is a Yiddish word that means "inept furniture manufacturer." The phrase currently has a number of different connotations. A cracker, on the other hand, is someone who compromises the security of a system. In 1985, hackers were offended by the use of the term "hacker" in the media, so they coined the term "cracker." However, in recent years, the line between hacking and cracking has blurred [2]

Some hackers, known as "white hat" hackers, are on the lookout for flaws in order to assist businesses or governments. Most hackers, on the other hand, utilise their skills for their own advantage (or just for fun) and not for the benefit of others: these are known as "black hat" hackers, or Crackers. A black hat hacker who discovers a new security vulnerability may use it to compromise computer systems or sell software exploiting it (an "exploit") to criminal groups on the black market. While some hackers are motivated only by technological difficulties or political or social purposes (i.e., "hacktivists") and only commit minor crimes, others engage in major criminal actions such as hacking banks to steal money or paralyse key infrastructure. The line between black and white hat hackers isn't always clear: a group of "grey hat" hackers exists somewhere in the between. Grey hats may or may not work for personal benefit, although they may technically commit crimes or engage in unethical behaviour.

When looking at these issues from a legal standpoint, however, the distinction between hackers, crackers, and hat colours is irrelevant. It is illegal to gain unauthorised access to, modify, or harm data, a network, or a computer in any way. In most areas, there are no exceptions; hackers and crackers alike rely on law enforcement discretion to decide whether to prosecute or not. Another blunder in defining hackers is to assume that each individual fits neatly into a single category [3]. Hacking into a computer is generally a crime. While non-malicious hackers can be beneficial for the society, this does not mean that all hacking activity is acceptable [4]


[1] Suiter, Tad. “Why ‘Hacking’?” In Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities, edited by Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, 6–10. University of Michigan Press, 2013.

[2] Schell, Bernadette Hlubik., Martin, Clemens. Cybercrime: A Reference Handbook. United States: ABC-CLIO, 2004.

[3] Maurushat, Alana (2019): Ethical hacking, ISBN 978-0-7766-2792-2, University of Ottawa Press, Ottawa.

[4] Braman, James., Vincenti, Giovanni., Dudley, Alfreda. Investigating Cyber Law and Cyber Ethics: Issues, Impacts and Practices. Ukraine: Information Science Reference, 2012.

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