Sydney, February 21 : Software crackers-people who specialise in the illegal activity of modifying copyright software to remove protection-are motivated by the challenge of cracking software, according to a new study.
Dr Sigi Goode, a business information systems expert from the College of Business and Economics at the Australian National University, has discovered that the experience of cracking becomes even more enjoyable for such people when a piece of software is harder to crack.
It may be noted that 'cracking' differs from 'hacking', which can mean everything from a clever fix to a software problem to illegally gaining access to secure networks, depending on the context.
This is the first time that a study has been conducted to determine what motivates software crackers.
For the study, Goode contacted software crackers through advertisements on five cracking forums, which attracted people from the US and Europe. He used Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to carry out an online survey and online interviews.
The researcher found that crackers were generally aged under 25, educated and skilled. Surprisingly, 25 per cent of the study participants comprised a cook, several students, a software manager, and a self-employed small business owner.
Goode also revealed that well-known crackers gain celebrity status, despite the fact that social status is a minor factor in their actions.
"Sometimes when people come in to my channels on IRC, they talk to me like I am 'god all mighty'," ABC Online quoted one participant as telling Goode.
One interesting finding of the study was that the crackers did not favour piracy, and believed that people should pay for software they use. However, very few of them expressed sympathy for companies selling more expensive software products.
Some would rather say that they were doing a favour to software makers by introducing people to their products.
Goode strongly believes that the crackers do underpin software piracy, for a programme cannot be pirated while copy protection is in place.