HOW DO WE DEFINE "HACKER"? by hackerslab.org
The term "hacker" has been distorted and misused by the mass media and general public over the years. Hackers have been wrongly defined as computer criminals who crash systems and violate people's privacy in order to obtain sensitive information.
It is believed that the term "hacker" was first adopted by a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1950s. These students belonged to the Power and Signals Group of MIT's Tech Model Railroad Club. They devoted a lot of their time and effort to ingenious exploration of computers. Moreover, they had an insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge about how computers worked. They created what they called "hacks" to complete computing tasks more quickly and subsequently adopted the word "hack" as a synonym for computer work.
As the word "hacker" started to become more widespread by individuals in the computer industry, the mass media started to blow this terminology way out of proportion. Moreover, it has been used interchangeably with the word "cracker", thus leading to confusion between the two words. Contrary to popular belief, there are obvious differences between a hacker and a cracker. It is essential to make a clear distinction between the two words with respect to their intentions and aims.
We define a hacker as a "computer enthusiast who enjoys learning everything about a computer system by means of clever programming." Hackers know several programming languages, work extensively with the inwards and outwards of UNIX and have a firm understanding of all the TCP/IP implementations and protocols. Furthermore, they keep abreast on all security related issues involving computers. On the other hand, a cracker is an intruder/attacker who deliberately breaks into a computer system with malicious and criminal intentions, set out to destroy all data on a system, as well as crash machines. Moreover, some crackers tend to call themselves hackers. However, they are not true hackers but are referred to as criminal hackers.