I was going through his link

Quote from that link

Use of the Network or Services to violate the security of any computer network, crack passwords or security encryption codes, transfer or store illegal material including that are deemed threatening or obscene, or engage in any kind of illegal activity is expressly prohibited.

Then I see this question

Is there a way to crack the password on an Excel VBA Project?

Is this not a violation of the Terms and Conditions? Or am I interpreting it in a different way?

Also I am not sure what to tag it under so if you feel the tags have to be edited, please feel free to do so.



The reason why I raised this question is because of this question. Where it was suggested that the password be cracked and I wanted to be sure that it was against the TOS before I flag it.

  • I have a feeling that question predates the TOS.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 10:28
  • 1
    That question isn't even on topic for SO now - it's not about programming in any way
    – Yi Jiang
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 10:34
  • 2
    @Tim Yi Jiang : cracking password can be the part of programing we can write code for that...
    – rptwsthi
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


First, my interpretation of the legal section of StackExchange. It is my belief that section refers to using the site in a direct way to do these things.

For example, if there was some sort of cross-site attack that could be launched from a client to affect other users/the site/sites negatively that involves using Stack Exchange directly to enable this, then that behavior is a violation of the terms of service.

Moving onto the second point, any piece of knowledge on Stack Overflow could indirectly be used for nefarious purposes. It's my interpretation that the TOS does not cover these scenarios. The applications of all knowledge across the Stack Exchange network for nefarious purposes are mind boggling when you get down to it, so the company has to protect itself in some way, which means that moderators would have to think of all possible scenarios where a piece of information could be used in a nefarious way, which would effectively neuter us and the site.

So it's my interpretation that no, the TOS does not define that questions that have nefarious applications in violation of site policy.

Additionally, I would say that they are on-topic, if it meets the quality guidelines. Someone, after all, might really have forgotten the password to their macro-protected sheet. Or they got hit with the virus that locks all their Office documents and charges an arm and a leg to get the password.

Oh, and security through obscurity is just a horrible practice, so in general, you're probably doing well by the ecosystem by bringing these vulnerabilities to light so that people can address them.

  • +1 Good interpretation + Nice explanation. However, Someone, after all, might really have forgotten the password to their macro-protected sheet. Agreed but please see my edit in the question. Would you think it is ethical to suggest cracking passwords of 3rd party app and it absolutely OK as per TOS? Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 11:52
  • @SiddharthRout My thoughts on whether or not it's ethical are irrelevant. Moderators and TOS are not in place to enforce ethics. We will be rendered ineffective if we do. That said, we don't even try to enforce it (other sites might have etiquette that goes beyond the TOS, SO does not). If you don't like the reasons or the question, you are free to downvote it, as voting is anonymous, and you can downvote for any reason you wish. Although we do have etiquette guidelines, they are just that, guidelines.
    – casperOne
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 11:55
  • 2
    @SiddharthRout: The answer to "I've forgotten my password" is astonishingly often "crack it" if there are no means of recovering it. That ranges from a brute-force attack against the hash to using a Live-CD to reset it. I can't see anything particularly bad in that...maybe you're just confused by the word "crack" and that it is mostly used with illegal activity...but that doesn't make it illegal. This reminds me about the torrent discussion over that SU. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 11:57
  • @casperOne: Thank you again. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 11:58
  • 1
    @UristMcBobby: So correct me if I am wrong. Tomorrow you float an Excel Add-in and are charging say $100 for it. You'd be okay if I discuss how to crack it in SO? Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 11:59
  • @casperOne: Sorry, I have been thinking and I have a quick question for you... That said, we don't even try to enforce it (other sites might have variations on this, SO does not) Why have the TOS in the 1st place then? Thanks for being patient with me :) Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:04
  • @SiddharthRout: As long as it is not named or no hint is there that it is that Excel Add-In...what are we supposed to do about it? It's not like someone calls the Police if I buy a crowbar...and crowbars are used astonishing often to crack stuff open which is locked. There's a difference between "What is the best way to open a door with a crowbar, because I (Mister McStupid) just locked myself out with nothing but a crowbar", "How to get a door open with a crowbar" and "I'm at the house of the guy I know, I want to get his door open with my crowbar and get his TV, how do I do that". Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:06
  • @UristMcBobby: That is definitely an interesting analogy. Unfortunately there is a lot of grey area around it. I guess if SO is OK with it then we simply abide by it. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:09
  • @SiddharthRout: "Presumption of innocence". Otherwise we'd have to ban every second question on SO...especially those about sending automated e-mails and stuff. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:12
  • @SiddharthRout I've updated my statement; other sites (really, IT and Security does, I can't think of others) may have etiquette that goes beyond the TOS, but that's for the individual site. SO does not have this as part of their etiquette. Why have the TOS at all? It's the legal stuff that protects all of us from the bad things of the world. It's essential to having a site like this.
    – casperOne
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:13
  • I will simply wait for casperOne's comment on my last comment directed at him and then I will close this question. Thanks for taking time to reply to my queries. You might want to post a separate reply so that I can vote it and give it due credit? Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:13
  • @SiddharthRout: Not really. CasperOne says the same thing only with different words. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:14
  • Thank you all. Though I still have that uneasy feeling about this but I guess I will have to live with it. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:20
  • 3
    @UristMcBobby The power of words!
    – casperOne
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:20
  • 2
    @casperOne: There's a reason why word is 80% of sword. ;) Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 12:24

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