A cracker is either a piece of software (program) whose purpose is to 'crack' the code to, say, a password; or 'cracker' refers to a person who attempts to gain unauthorised access to a computer system. Such persons are usually ill intentioned and perform malicious acts of techno-crime and vandalism.
- Code breaking software. A piece of software designed to decipher a code, but used most often to 'crack a password. Crackers operate quite simply by testing large numbers of possible passwords much faster than a human being could hope to perform. Passwords can be extraordinarily complex, but, given sufficient time, and sufficient computer power, ANY password can be broken - even one of 64 case-sensitive characters. Companies are well advised to ensure that, to prevent system penetration by a Cracker, there is a limit on the number of password tries permitted before the system locks and notifies the Security Officer and/or Network Administrator. Three attempts is fairly standard; other systems may be less strict, while some high security installations will permit only one attempt before locking and generating security alert messages.
- Illegal entry into a computer system. These individuals often have malicious intent and can have multiple tools for breaking into a system. The term was adopted circa 1985 by hackers in defence against journalistic misuse of 'hacker'. Contrary to widespread myth, cracking does not usually involve some mysterious leap of intuition or brilliance, but rather the persistent repetition of a handful of fairly well-known tricks that exploit common weaknesses in the security of target systems. Accordingly, most crackers are only mediocre hackers. Crackers tend to gather in small, tight-knit, very secretive groups that have little overlap with the huge, open hacker poly-culture; though crackers often like to describe themselves as hackers, most true hackers consider crackers a separate and lower form of life, little better than virus writers.
*** The Information Security Glossary ***