Pedantic man

While trying to find out the NZ Telco plans for the internet infrastructure here, I stumbled across this. Being pedantic and frustrated at being unable to have a worthwhile say in the next election I wrote the following letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,

The following paragraph:
“The existence of software with known vulnerabilities running on machines connected to the Internet is exploited by individuals (“hackers”) who for whatever reason like to compromise computer security. Sometimes hackers just look at systems they have penetrated, other times they cause damage by changing or deleting files. Hacking into web servers to deface web sites is quite common, and has been done to many organisations including the CIA. Web site defacements are currently running at about 20 per day across the whole Internet [], with an increasing trend. Having a high public profile, particularly one concerned with security, increases the attempts made to deface a site. All organisations with web sites need to remain vigilant about the security of their machines and monitor them for any evidence of break-ins.”

…misuses the term hacker. Hackers do not cause damage to a system and rarely intrude systems that don’t belong to them. The term you mean is “cracker”. Also, these crackers do not compromise computer security – it is the errors in the software that compromise security, crackers just exploit the errors.

From WordNet2.0:

n. a programmer for whom computing is its own reward; may enjoy the challenge of breaking into other computers but does no harm; “true hackers subscribe to a code of ethics and look down upon crackers”

Sorry to be pedantic but the proliferation of the term “hacker” when “cracker” is largely due to the media and I feel a government report should use the correct terms.

Their response was:

Hi Joel,

Thank you for your comment. While we can see the validity of the point you have raised, the paper in question is five years old and it is not the policy of the New Zealand government to retroactively edit its documents. We will have to let the error stand.


Ah well, it was nice they responded to me. I expected to be ignored!


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