ARCHIVED: What are hackers and crackers?
Originally, the term "hacker" described any amateur computer programmer who discovered ways to make software run more efficiently. In a broader sense, hacker describes anyone who writes computer programs, modifies computer hardware, or tinkers with computers or electronic devices for fun. Hackers will "hack" on a problem until they find a solution, always trying to make their equipment work in new, more efficient ways.
Due to sensationalized depictions in films and other modern media, the popular definition of hacker has changed to describe a person who maliciously breaks into computer networks with the intent to snoop, steal data, or tamper with files.
Legitimate hackers resent the association of the term hacker with criminal activity. They use the term "cracker" to describe someone who breaks into networks. "Phishers" are similar to crackers. A phisher tries to trick users into giving sensitive information such as government ID numbers, credit card numbers or account passwords; see What are phishing scams and how can I avoid them?
Last modified on April 06, 2009.