In my last post, I talked about hackers; who they were and who they are, as well as a look into their motivations.
Now, in this second of three posts, I am going to give crackers a similar treatment.
“Crackers” are the least known of all of the computer hobbyists (with the possible exception of ‘phreakers’; but they’re not a part of this post), so they have received less of the Hollywood treatment that glamorizes yet muddies who and what they are.
So who are crackers, and why are they called that, anyway? Crackers are people who, at the most basic level, enjoy math puzzles. But I’m not talking about sodoku here, in this case “math puzzle” means deciphering secret codes, such as the ones behind DVD encryption.
Crackers are the people who allow you to jailbreak your iPhone and play your DVD and Blu-ray movies outside of your TV’s.
Crackers are called that because they “crack” codes. They hate pointless restrictions on hardware or software whose existence serves only to make the legitimate consumers life harder.
Examples of such pointless restrictions are DVD region coding, the unskippable warnings at the beginning of every DVD, and consumer electronics that come from the manufacturer with built in restrictions(known as ‘crippleware’ because it has been intentionally crippled at the factory).
Did you know that, on average, it takes 17 steps in order to play a standard DVD, and it only takes 2 steps to play a ‘cracked’ DVD?
Is it any wonder that the average consumer is frustrated with the record and movie companies?
The easier it becomes for any person who is technologically literate to overcome these restrictions(and there are lots of ‘how-to’s’ out there, at all skill levels), the more gruesome laws Hollywood demands be passed by Congress to further lock-down the consumer.
This makes it much easier to restrict individual freedoms and imprison otherwise law-abiding citizens for the merest offense.
Better watch how you use that screwdriver! It could land you in federal prison for up to five years and up to a $500,000 fine (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Section 1201, subsection a).
So you see, while you may not have heard of the name, crackers are right here with us; enabling the technological freedom we (sometimes) take for granted.
Eventually, it will be crackers that will be the forefront of the revolution. Which revolution? All of them.