In a recent article about the FBI breakup of a ring of youths who were using their home computers to break into the Chase Manhattan Bank, you wrote that "FBI agents told them that raids at the student's homes late Tuesday night were staged to 'make an example and discourage' future hackers." In this misuse of the term "hacker," you lead the reader to believe that the act of "hacking" is somehow illegal.
What is illegal is computer "pirating" and "cracking," the first being a term for illegally getting around the legal protections of a piece of computer software, the second a term for illegally gaining access to a computer, which is what the North County youths were actually arrested for.
"Hackers" are people who spend most of their time in front of a computer screen. The term implies a certain amount of fanaticism, in much the same way that the phrase "avid sports fan" implies a certain amount of dedication to sports. It is no more accurate to say that someone was arrested for hacking than to say that someone was arrested for being a sports fan.
DAVID D. ROSS