For the uninitiated,
Software Cracking is the modification of software to remove protection methods: copy protection, trial/demo version, serial number, hardware key, date checks, CD check or software annoyances like nag screens and adware.-Wikipedia
From what I understand, the legality of cracking or "reverse engineering" isn't really black or white if you did not act for commercial gain. Even if we assume it is proved illegal, it is a crime hard to prove and convict. Therefore most convictions so far have been done for the "illegal distribution of cracks".
In spite of the illegality in distribution of cracks, we've had a lot of groups throughout history competing to release them, for free. It was done for the challenge, and for the respect and honor. The underground world on the internet has mostly been about reputation, rather than money. But more about cracking in a later post.
It struck me now that the big players in the past, have all but disappeared nowadays. One of them was the United Cracking Force. I stumbled upon these groups through the artwork I often found. The logo designs for many of these underground groups were really cool. The demoscene, a direct spinoff from the crack scene was a significant component of cyberculture.
UNITED cRACKING FORCE (also known as uCF2000) were amongst the most renowned cracking groups to exist. Started in 1994 by mARQUIS dE sOIRE, they ruled the release scene for most part of the next decade.
They seem to have faded away now, but at their peak, along with PhrozenCrew, they went after most of the copy protection schemes out there. From anecdotal experience I know that uCF is credited for being the first to break the dongle protection scheme, though the claims have been doubted.
As a researcher, I have been interested in this underground world on the internet for a long time. uCF2000 were the first underground groups I stumbled upon, so I just had to write at least one paragraph about them.
United Cracking Force Release History
Files from UCF2000 - Defacto2 Group Repository
Reality Check Network 22, "United Cracking Force", 14th July 1996