A hacker by any other name…
A hacker by any other name is still a hacker – someone with the intention of achieving an objective other than what is intended by the manufacturer or owner of a device.
Some people wanted to split the hackers into the good and dark sides of the Force, so some people started calling bad hackers “crackers.” Unfortunately for them, the general public and the media don’t say something was “cracked” or “crackered”, they still say that something was hacked – by a hacker.
At some point (I don’t know when), people started using the cowboy movie analogy that bad hackers wear “black hats” and the good hackers wear “white hats.” Someone also introduced the concept of the “gray hat” as someone who plays both side of the fence. Cowboy movies are a bit passe these days, so what do these hats mean to the generations that didn’t grow up on cowboy movies?
Bottom line is, no matter what people are called, the goodness or badness of a hack is really in the eyes of the manufacturer or owner of a device. The public may applaud when someone hacks a manufacturer’s device in the name of the public good, but the manufacturer may think otherwise – i.e. jail breaking cell phones, putting Linux on game consoles or other devices, and modifying a car’s performance chip. Owners don’t applaud when a device is hacked by anyone [ i.e. crackers or ethical hackers ], well-intentioned or not, because it’s always considered a bad thing, even when done as part of a penetration test.