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image courtesy of Naveed Babar

Update 1.21.11:

An example of  the ethical issue of hacking: Online Group Denies Ipad Hacking

Update 1/16/11:

The server of my 2 sites has been under attack for 2 days, affecting hundreds of sites. The black hat hackers redirected all the sites to an “ad”, requesting visitors to click the ad to direct them back to the main site.

Talk about stealing traffic, deceiving visitors, and inconveniencing web masters and those whose living depends on the web.

Is hacking bad? If you are non techie and you hear the word hacker, it gives a negative impression. But mind you, there are legit hackers, and in the world of geeks, hacking is not necessarily bad.

What is hacking

Hacking is the ability to break into systems to figure out how a [computer, phone, etc] works. Hackers may break into the security walls, but will not cause harm. Hackers hack to satisfy their curiosity or thirst for knowledge.

Hacking in contrast with cracking

Cracking is malicious hacking. Crackers breakin to systems to steal data or hostage the system to make money.

How they break in to your your system

  1. They steal your password
  2. Malware/Spyware
  3. Unsecured wi-fi
  4. If user failed to change the default settings [i.e. no password or password is set to 123456 or default setting is unsecured]
  5. Looking for the security hole in the system [no firewall, not updated os or anti virus]

Effects on you

So it is safe to say that all crackers are hackers but not all hackers are crackers. You may argue that the term does not matter but it does. There are geeks who are proud but decent hackers, and they do not want to be associated with criminals. There are some variations though on how geeks refer to each other. Black hat hackers also refer to the crackers and white hat hackers the good guys.

The good guys,  breaks into system for the purpose of exposing the vulnerability and for the developer to fix this.  They do not vandal the site, damage or  steal any data. To discover the vulnerability is already an accomplishment. So a hacker discovers a security hole, reports it to the developer like Microsoft, then the vendor works on a patch to plug this security hole. Without the hacker, this will not be discovered.

A cracker, the bad guy, will steal your data, vandalize your site and make money. That’s why if you will purchase a pirated software, it is also referred to as the cracked version. They can make cracked software passed the genuine test. Crackers can also steal credit card and bankcard info and use these for their personal benefit.

Crakers as Identity Thieves

Yes, a cracker can steal your identity. But a person need not be a cracker to become an identity thief. Perpetuators can use social engineering, phishing or create a false account and pretend to be another person. These are discussed in detail in my Protect Yourself from Identity Thieves article.

Protection from Crackers

  1. Get a genuine operating system.
  2. Keep your operating system updated- always download and install the latest security patch
  3. Keep your firewall on
  4. Use an anti-virus/spyware/malware program and keep it updated.

For protection against social engineering, and from other ways to steal your personal  please read Protect Yourself from Identity Thieves