There is a great divergence in the understanding of the role of hackers in modern cyberspace. While they are often considered to be criminals, breaking into computer systems to cause damage and engage in personal gain; most hackers are out there for the exact opposite reasons, to help the cyber-environment, and to do something they love. According to Wikipedia, "hacker is extended to mean a person who makes things work beyond perceived limits through their own technical skill." Hackers, then, strive to improve the internet for all users, and not damage or deface what currently exists. Hackers, not crackers (people whose primary goal is financial gain), are the true defenders of cyberspace, in that they work to uncover security flaws, attempt to regulate dangerous or immoral content, promote new technology and ideas, and strive to stop crackers from damaging critical cyber technology. By describing and proving each of the above concepts related to hackers and the defense of cyberspace, this essay seeks to prove that crackers, not hackers, are the primary threat to cyberspace; and that hackers, through their actions and love of technology, strive to and are successful at being the true defenders of cyberspace.All over the world, groups of hackers are gainfully employed as cyber cops, internet security, and virus stoppers. Everyday they find "cures" to hundreds of bugs, Trojan horses, and viruses that crackers and hackers have loosed on the cyber world. At the anti-virus firm Kaspersky, in Moscow, "woodpeckers" (young hackers) work in twelve hour shifts to protect the internet. In the media, they are called computer programmers. However, their job is to correct code, and to travel into crackers' computers to hunt out the source of these security breaches (Johnson 2006). Internet security requires hackers to learn not only how to fix the problems crackers cause, but also how to think like them, to understand not only the how but also the why of what the crackers do. The line between hacker (with a positive connotation) and hacker (with a negative connotation) is actually finite. They break into other people's computers, investigate personal files, and change the internet in thousands of ways. However, hackers only do it out of love for cyberspace, and a need to protect others, and strengthen the security of other people's systems. Crackers, (the group commonly called hackers in mainstream media) do the same; only they do it not just out of love, but also out of a desire for personal gain. For hackers, the need to learn to think like crackers is paramount. They are taught in classrooms how to think and behave like crackers, using the same tools to find a system's weakest points (School 2005). Yet few people would argue that these people are doing damage; instead, they are trying to strengthen security, and are called computer programmers by mainstream media. They use the same tools, and do the same actions. The only difference is the eventual goal: for hackers, to improve the internet, for crackers, to improve their wallet.
Crackers not only go after financial gain for themselves, they also try to hurt others, a new wave called "cyber terrorism." Cyber terrorism is defined as "cyber terrorism is the premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which result in violence against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents" (Federal Bureau of Investigations 2006). Crackers gain entrance into military and government sites, causing damage and defacing the sites. Cyber terrorism is considered one of the greatest new threats, and laws are popping up everywhere requiring jail time for these offenders. Yet their greatest skill is that of not being findable, at least not by laypersons. Instead, computer programmers are becoming cyber cops, searching out these criminals, and stopping dangerous attacks on data. These "cracks" into government security can only be