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A crack is a methodology for breaking into a secured computer system. It was coined in the 1980s by hackers who wanted to disassociate themselves from the more malicious practices carried out by hackers. A cracker’s sole purpose is to break into a system, gaining fulfillment from being able to “crack” the system's security shield. Real hackers go beyond just opening up a system. They go inside the system to gain knowledge and information for malicious intent, playful pranks and profiteering.
The term crack is also commonly applied to the files used in software cracking programs, which enable illegal copying and the use of commercial software by breaking (or cracking) various registration and copy-protection techniques.
A software crack may also circumvent or serialize a piece of commercial software. Commercial software often uses keys to authenticate the user and software during instalation. Without the key, the software is unusable. The software crack is used to get past this security feature by generating a key. Or, it may change a file to trick the software into allowing the cracker to use it as if the correct serial key had already been entered. The latter is the most distributed methodology for cracking software licenses.
All of these descriptions of crack are similar. They reference breaking into a secured system. Whatever its form or method, crack means to get past a security system.