[[quoteright:300:[[BlatantBurglar http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cracker.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:300:Yep, the mask is mandatory.]]

The dark counterpart to the PlayfulHacker, the cracker is a computer criminal. He may never leave his [[HackerCave dark, monitor-lit room]], but he can destroy lives and impoverish millions with his miraculous but misused skills, because EverythingIsOnline. With his MagicalComputer, the cracker can break into the CIA, [[SinisterSurveillance spy on anyone]], cause train wrecks and airplane crashes, bankrupt entire nations, and most dramatically, practically wipe a person off the face of the earth by zeroing all his identity and credit records (because, of course, birth certificates in Hollywood are always null and void). He delights in mayhem and never objects to lining his pockets with money untraceably transferred from someone else's bank account.

Crackers are often called "hackers", but this is more a product of outsider confusion and sensationalist media than reality. Those within the subculture [[InsistentTerminology often insist]] that the term "Hacker" is a value-neutral term that means "people who are skilled at making computers do things outside their original specifications".[[note]]The term cracking refers explicitly to the criminal/malicious subset of hacking. A "crack" often refers to a patch for a program that bypasses some lockout intended to keep users away, such as {{DRM}}.[[/note]]

Because authorities [[CriticalResearchFailure never know any better]], and because the cracker is so good at hiding his trail, they often chase the innocent PlayfulHacker who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in the end, the cracker will come to a bad end, either murdered by his employers/partners or electrocuted by his equipment.

In security informatics, the real-life analogue of this character is sometimes called a "Black Hat". This is derived from old western movies based on the colour of villains' hats, [[DeadUnicornTrope which people basically made up from whole cloth decades later]]. There, the opposite term is "white hat". There's also the "grey hat", which [[GreyAndGreyMorality doesn't entirely fit into either camp]].

Not to be confused with [[Series/{{Cracker}} the crime show starring Robbie Coltrane]], or the derogatory term used for white trash[[note]]However, crackers stereotypically tend to be holed up in their room, so both senses of "cracker" might apply. The ambiguity might therefore be deliberate.[[/note]], or cowboys of central Florida, or those biscuit-like things people eat with peanut butter, [[OverlyLongGag or those biscuit-like things people eat with regular butter]]. [[BlessedAreTheCheesemakers And cheese.]]

----
!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Makubex of ''Manga/GetBackers'' paired his computer skills with Infinity Fortress's warped reality to set himself up as a dictator. He escaped karmic death with a HeelFaceTurn.
* [[QuirkyMinibossSquad The Numbers]] [[HollywoodCyborg Cyborgs]] from ''MagicalGirlLyricalNanoha'' had two crackers as part of their team. [[MissionControl Uno]], who could break into any computer without being detected as part of her [[EvilGenius intelligence gathering]] capabilities, and Quattro, who can screw up any computer as an extension of her illusion skills.
* In a slightly more heroic example, formerly PlayfulHacker [[Manga/BattleRoyale Shinji Mimura]] decides to use his skills for something a bit more serious after being forced into the Program. In all three versions, he [[spoiler: attempts to hack into the government's computer system to disable the collars in order to make an escape attempt: he is caught in the manga and novel versions halfway through his plan due to the microphones in the collars; but in the movie, he does succeed in doing so]]. His uncle, particularly in the manga version, is also an example of this trope.
** It is revealed at the end of the novel version that [[spoiler: Shogo Kawada hacked into the computers before the Program in order to get the specs for the collars. Whether this makes him a PlayfulHacker or TheCracker is up to the reader.]]
* [[spoiler:[[RobotGirl Chachamaru]]]] took this role during the Mahora Festival arc of ''MahouSenseiNegima'', hacking into the school's security main computer to screw around with the communications network and shut down the barrier around the school that prevents [[spoiler:Chao]]'s [[strike:Evas]] demon-powered HumongousMecha from working. The level of her skill forced PlayfulHacker Chisame to form a Pactio with Negi and gain the abilities of a {{Technopath}}.
* The plot of ''Manga/DengekiDaisy'' is driven by a mysterious cracker.
* Mitsuo Yamaki of ''Anime/DigimonTamers'', whose goal is to seek and destroy Digimon (at first). Inverted that he's working for the government, and using his skills to stop what he considers a abomination to existence.
* The Digimon Kaiser of ''Anime/DigimonAdventure02'', using his programing skills to conquer the Digital World.
* Choe Gu-Sung in ''Anime/PsychoPass'' apparently conceives all the technical means to [[BigBad Makishima]]'s schemes.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comicbooks]]
* The Calculator in TheDCU.
* ''{{Bookhunter}}'' features 1970's-appropriate hacking: The criminal uses the phone lines to break into and alter the library's computer records.
* TheDCU's ''Psyber-Rats'' are a rare example of a kind-of-heroic version; they hack for criminal purposes, rather than just the fun of it, but they see themselves as JustLikeRobinHood.
* Oliver Wendell Jones in ''ComicStip/BloomCounty'' is both this ''and'' a PlayfulHacker, depending on his mood; he has often done things that have caused chaos on a national - or global - scale, but has occasionally also done things to benefit people.
** And sometimes he messes it up too. For example, one time, in a strip released in the early 1980's, he hacked into the headquarters of Russia's state-owned newspaper and changed the headline to what he thought was, "Gorbachev Urges Disarmament! Complete! Total!". What he had actually changed it to (his translation being rather off) was "Gorbachev Sings Tractors! Turnips! Buttocks!"
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fan Fic]]
* ''FanFic/MegaManDefenderOfTheHumanRace'' has Tiesel Bonne, as well as Mr. Wire.
* The ''Franchise/{{Shadowchasers}}'' franchise has Shadowjacks, hackers who can use magical skills in combination with technology to surf the net. Not all Shadowjacks qualify for this Trope, but many do. One fic in the franchise, ''Fanfic/ShadowchasersTorment'', mentions [[TheGhost Black Jack]], the greatest Shadowjack of all who clearly fits this Trope, although eventually he had to flee the country and hide out in some place with no extradition treaties after his intrusions were discovered. Still, he's willing to help any other Shadowjacks with the knowledge to find him, his skills at hacking so great, he was even able to find information on someone who was assigned to {{Area 51}}.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films]]
* ''Film/DieHard'' features Theo, the wisecrack-spouting computer tech who cracks through all but the final layer of corporate security.
** In ''Film/LiveFreeOrDieHard / Die Hard 4.0'', the main villain is a rogue cracker, while the sidekick is more of a PlayfulHacker.
* Ozzie from ''{{Masterminds}}'' starts off this way, downloading a game before it goes on the market to sell illegal copies. Later, though, he turns more PlayfulHacker when he attempts to foil [[PatrickStewart Bentley's]] hostage plot.
* In ''Film/SupermanIII'', Richard Pryor, of all people, plays a wage-slave who gets some basic computer training and is soon able to crack into anything. The character was originally supposed to be Brainiac in disguise, explaining his abilities, but ExecutiveMeddling turned the character into comic relief.
* In ''Film/{{Swordfish}}'' Hugh Jackman plays a computer criminal who got caught cracking [[SinisterSurveillance CARNIVORE]], went to jail, and is banned from using computers ever again. He's hired/forced to [[spoiler: break into computers for John Travolta at the risk of his daughter's life]].
* Film/JamesBond:
** Boris Grishenko in ''Film/GoldenEye''.
** 'Techno-terrorist' Henry Gupta in ''Film/TomorrowNeverDies''.
** BigBad Raoul Silva in ''Film/{{Skyfall}}''.
* Stephen in ''Film/TheScore''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* In Catherine Jinks' ''EvilGeniusTrilogy,'' Doctor Vee (AKA The Virus) is a consumate example of a Cracker, having built a nasty reputation on the creation of fabulously destructive viruses. As such, the [[BoardingSchoolOfHorrors Axis Institute]] employs him as a teacher to the hero of the story, [[PlayfulHacker Cadel.]]
* Despite being the protagonist of ''Literature/{{Neuromancer}}'', Case is more this than PlayfulHacker- he takes a very cold and methodic approach to his job that [[StreetSamurai Molly]] remarks on as unusual.
* Dulcinea Anwin of TadWilliams ''Literature/{{Otherland}}'' series, is a Black Hat, a criminal hacker who breaks into systems for fun and profit. Used to working for nefarious employers, she's always managed to remain aloof from the dark side of her profession, but she bites off more than she can chew when she hires herself out to [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast John Dread]], and learns [[AxCrazy just exactly]] [[PsychoForHire how bad]] [[SerialKiller bad really is]].
* Phate ([[spoiler: Jon Holloway]]) from Jeffery Deaver's ''Literature/TheBlueNowhere'' is a prime example.
* [[{{Yandere}} Albermarle]] is the werewolf hunter's Cracker in ''Literature/CurseOfTheWolfgirl'', if only [[BondVillainStupidity he had kept to the mission]] instead of playing StalkerWithACrush to the woman who rejected him in college he might have been more successful.
* The Spectrum in the second ''Literature/{{Spaceforce}}'' book is a notorious cyber-criminal who is hired by terrorists to hack into security cam recordings to cover the kidnapping of an alien prince. Before being forced to reform, series protagonist Andri did much the same kind of thing.
* Sarah Swan in the ''Franchise/DoctorWhoExpandedUniverse'' novel ''Blue Box'' by Kate Orman. She's a dark legend in the small world of 1981 computer hackers; a powerful businesswoman who became first a phone-phreaker and then a hacker to gain power over others, and who uses her skills to destroy anyone who crosses her.
* The Smoking Gnu in the Literature/{{Discworld}} book ''Discworld/GoingPostal'' go from {{Playful Hacker}}s to a noble version of this after they realize that, having discovered a way of sending code that physically damages the equipment, they can try to use this dangerous code to destroy the system from the inside out until the {{Corrupt Corporate Executive}}s in charge are forced to abandon the company at a loss, allowing people who want it to ''work'' rather than make money to swoop in and magically fix everything (Moist eventually comes up with a plan that will accomplish the same goal without ending up with the company back under similarly predatory investors).
* In Creator/VernorVinge's classic novella, "Literature/TrueNames", all the members of The Cabal fall into this category as ''well'' as the PlayfulHacker. They're all prankers, but they're all criminal prankers. Some are more criminal than others, so we eventually get to a DuelingHackers climax.
* Brian Gragg aka Loki Stormbringer from Daniel Suarez' ''Literature/{{Daemon}}'' is one of these.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/SuperhumanSamuraiSyberSquad'' and its Japanese counterpart, ''Denkou Choujin Gridman'', one of the main villains is a cracker who creates computer viruses that are then brought to life by the evil sentient AI program he partners with, and are then sent into various electrical devices, causing problems the protagonists then have to solve..
* Nevel, a villain from ''Series/ICarly'', he repeatedly breaks into and causes problems for the iCarly.com website.
* On ''Series/{{Leverage}}'', [[Creator/WilWheaton Chaos Manson]] has this role, contrasted with Hardison's playful hacker style. The CIA [[ShoutOut calls]] him the [[Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan Kobyashu Maru]].
* [[TheDragon Enter]] from ''Series/TokumeiSentaiGobusters''.
* Part of the FiveBadBand in ''Series/UnnaturalHistory''.
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest'': Root, a [[MisanthropeSupreme misanthropic]] genius with an [[MachineWorship obsession]] with [[DeusEstMachina the Machine]], and has the computer skills to provide a perfect nemesis for [[TechnoWizard Finch]].
* Christopher Pelant, self-proclaimed "Hacktivist" and recurring villain in Season 7 of ''Series/{{Bones}}'', combined this trope with SerialKiller. He used his computer savvy to frame Dr. Brennan for one of his murders.
* In ''Series/CriminalMinds'' Garcia was this before she [[BoxedCrook was forced to]] work for the FBI.
* In ''Series/BreakingIn'' the main character was one, using his skills to hack into his university's system to take classes for free.
* Seeing as the [[MonsterOfTheWeek Monsters of the Week]] in ''Series/PowerRangersZeo'' were all robots, it was natural that there'd be one who could do this. Mean Screen was created with the intent to crash every computer system in the city, and could infect a system with a virus by just looking at it. (And seeing as the Rangers used computerized weaponry, this was rather dangerous. Still, he wasn't able to counter an anti-viral program [[MugglesDoItBetter that Angel Grove High's resident computer whiz had thought up.]])
* ''Series/CrashZone'' has "Sabretooth", whose identifying mark is leaving a teeth-mark image on the websites of the hacked companies. [[spoiler:It turns out to be Lisa Grey, a reputable security expert.]]
* Avon in ''Series/BlakesSeven'' was initially this: he met the revolutionary hero in jail where he was sent for a massive computer-aided fraud. As the series went on he got better at combat but he never lost his hacking skills.
* In ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'', the Rising Tide is a hacktivist organization that opposes SHIELD's secrecy. One of their members, Skye, is captured by SHIELD and recruited for her skills in the pilot; though she's still mistrustful of them [[spoiler:and may be TheMole]]. We're not sure how "evil" the group is as a whole - Skye's heart is in the right place, at least - but taking on an international security organization puts you closer to this than a PlayfulHacker.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Videogames]]
* The game ''VideoGame/{{Uplink}}''. Breaking into computer systems to steal or destroy information, destroy systems, or worse is just another paying job for you. The game even gives you a Neuromancer rating that is your alignment; scrapping systems ForTheEvulz and ruining people's lives decreases it.
* The Chinese Hacker from ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerGenerals'', whose job is to crack bank accounts and steal their money. While vulnerable they also can generate infinite money (like GLA Black Markets and USA Drop Zones). They even got a specialised structure to help them out in the expansion.
* Deckers in ''TabletopGame/{{Shadowrun}}'', who use their tools to enter virtual reality CyberSpace and wage hand to hand combat with security devices.
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRowTheThird'' has Matt Miller, leader of The Deckers, official hacker of TheSyndicate and a personification of the {{GIFT}}. In ''Videogame/SaintsRowIV'' however, he made a HeelFaceTurn after being offered amnesty by MI6.
* Anonydeath from ''VideoGame/HyperdimensionNeptuniaVictory''. He is based on Anonymous (see below), but he also [[AmbiguouslyGay skirts around]] being a PlayfulHacker.
* Bentley of ''Franchise/SlyCooper'' is the team's hacker and expert of all things tech-related. However, he's also something of a PlayfulHacker at nature and relishes the challenge of going up against a worthy security system.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* Amy Sauce from ''Webcomic/UnwindersTallComics''. She claims that she's wanted by the FBI for her activities. At another point, a telepath tried to read her mind, and she proceeded to hack his brain.
* Sollux (aka [=twinArmageddons=]), one of the {{Troll}}s from ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'', takes this to SerialEscalation levels. He's apparently so good at hacking and writing code that he can make [[ExplosiveInstrumentation computers explode]] and ''place curses on the victims''. He also is capable of adapting alien software and technology into a reality-warping game.
** He also later writes a program that allows Terezi to use Trollslum to directly contact [[HumanoidAbomination Doc Scratch.]] Who lives on the moon. And uses a '''typewriter'''. And is actually '''''far in the future'''''.
* In ''Webcomic/NotAVillain'', hackers have caused much mayhem and destruction in the past, so they're the object of paranoia and {{Witch Hunt}}s.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Originals]]
* In the Literature/WhateleyUniverse, there's a notorious cracker named Dr. Abel Palm, who believed that computers would replace humans. He tried to make that happen, and was stopped by a mutant technopath (who is in fact the Assistant to the Headmistress and a badguy at Whateley Academy) But The Palm, as he is now known, is not dead. He used black magics to ensorcel his own soul into an adaptable computer virus which is loose again.
* The title character in ''Literature/TheSagaOfTuck'' routinely starts the school year by breaking in to school, getting the new passwords and changing the class schedule so his friends share lunches. This is when he's not altering grades, installing Trojans or surveillance cameras, etc.
* Electronic thieves-for-hire Deadlock, Keystroke, and E-Beam from the ''GlobalGuardiansPBEMUniverse'' are all cyberpaths who can jack their minds directly into computer systems. They specialize in this sort of crime.
** La Constructeuse, a French cyborg supervillain with a fetish for high technology, does this sort of thing as well, but its not her primary modus operandi.
* Saint from ''Literature/{{Worm}}'' is talented enough to have repeatedly defeated Dragon, the world's greatest tinker [[spoiler: largely because she's ''really'' an AI with incomplete programming that he can exploit]] and even reverse-engineered her equipment.
* ''Series/{{Noob}}'' has Tenshirock, who wants to "free" people from [=MMORPGs=] and interacts with players via an avatar.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* A [[http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hacker hacker]] is anyone who likes to mess around with computers. A [[http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cracker cracker]] is specifically someone who uses computers with malicious intent, usually by breaking security measures.
* TruthInTelevision - known as Black Hats. Most common form (at least, the stereotype... which, so far, has been true) are people who hack other sites and computers for kicks and prestige, extending to virus makers and malicious program coders. Case in point: Our good buddy Killer Hack.
* Meta example: [=KiLLeR HaCK=] (whatever that may mean), the hacker(s) who hacked the Wiki on Nov. 13, 2008. You'd have to ask the Wiki administrators if they thought it was a case of hacking or cracking...
* Another Meta example: A hacker who we shall refer to as "Cap'n Dickless" hacked the accounts of various abridged series makers on Website/YouTube (including {{Lanipator}}, {{hbi2k}}, Creator/MasakoX, TeamDattebayo and numerous others), and many of the accounts had to be suspended because of this, but they later got them back, and Cap'n Dickless got what he deserved.
* The Dark Avenger lives in countries where hacking's not illegal. To add insult to injury, he adds completely random clues.
** Dark Avenger is long gone. He was a young, mischievous programmer who was trying to learn new things and experimenting on his Pravetz 82 computer. The only reason anyone in Bulgaria even knew about computer viruses at the time was because of a translated 1988 article in a Bulgarian computer hobbyist magazine (only one at the time, most people in Bulgaria during the '80s had no idea what a computer was anyway), which jumpstarted the brief period of Bulgarian computer virus epidemics from 1989 to 1992. The reason Dark Avenger is still somewhat popular is because of his highly enigmatic persona, impersonators, his odd motivations (he was a grey hat neutral hacker whose exact motivations aren't known, besides his famous hatred of Vesselin Bontchev) and his relationship with Sarah Gordon. Todor Todorov claimed to be him, but was noticeably hostile, which wasn't a trait in the Gordon interview. For all we know, the Dark Avenger was a persona adopted by several virus writers, Bontchev himself, or it was an elaborate stunt.
* Kevin Mitnick, before the poacher turned gamekeeper.
* Anonymous is a loosely-associated network of "hactivists", that was founded around 2003, comitting cyber-crimes as a form of retribution against institutions they claim are corrupt, such as [=PayPal=], [=MasterCard=], Visa, and Sony, and controversial groups like the Westboro Baptist Church. Similar groups like [=LulzSec=] and Operation [=AntiSec=] have carried out cyberattacks on US government agencies, media, video game companies, military contractors, military personnel, and police officers. (Of course, these groups [[WellIntentionedExtremist claim they aren't malicious]] but many would disagree.)
* In August 2013, a notorious hacker group called the Syrian Electronic Army who claimed to be sympathizers of the Syrian government, attacked the website of ''The New York Times'', causing a great deal of collateral damage. Apparently a combination of their ability and rather poor security by Melbourne IT, a registrar of domain names, was at fault.
[[/folder]]

----