back to article Remember that competition for non-hoodie hacker pics? Here's their best entries

A competition to produce stock pictures of infosec that does not involve hoodies or waterfalls of 0s and 1s has yielded a mixed bag of images to illustrate the industry's digital doings for the world's consumption. Open Ideo, an American graphic design biz, ran an event co-sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation aimed at …

  1. poohbear

    +1 for Saiba Cecuriti

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of the security team at our place did in fact wear a hoodie and have matrix stickers on the back of his laptop.

    Then he got a girlfriend and started wearing a shirt. As he's gone back to hoodies I'm wondering what he did with the girlfriend.

    1. First Light

      So am I. Maybe send a cadaver dog to his room in his mother's basement?

      1. Solarflare

        They did, now the guy has taken to wearing a dogchain and using a leash as a belt.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As he found out they are a pain in the fucking arse. Expensive and you are them limited to what "they" want to do, even if you have no interest in it. And....and...keep badgering you to start a family despite you having no interest in kids. Your relatives kids are fine, as you can give them back once bored but having to look after them all the time. No thanks.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Are we still talking about wearing a suit?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'd be pretty impressed by an expensive suit that wanted kids.

          1. Teiwaz

            I'd be pretty impressed by an expensive suit that wanted kids.

            Ah, yes. The pitter-patter of tiny handkerchiefs.

      2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        "as you can give them back once bored"

        Covered in sick, droll (Ok I admit I also droll) and food (Although having a dog helps here).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re: drool.

          droll is funny, drool is spit.

          1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

            Re: re: drool.

            and I used droll twice!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: re: drool.

            Be fair, drool can be funny too.

            1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

              Re: re: drool.

              Not as much as releasing trapped gas

      3. joeW

        Have you considered choosing more suitable girlfriends?

        1. Nolveys

          How is her ability to wear suits a factor? Also, how are we back to talking about suits?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yes but robotic technology not quite there yet.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: As he found out they are a pain in the fucking arse.

        Sounds like you're confusing a girlfriend with a parent.

        I have a girlfriend. We do things we both enjoy together and things we like individually on our own. And we have a lot of sex and drink lots of alcohol.

        You're clearly doing it wrong.

        1. Muscleguy

          Re: re: As he found out they are a pain in the fucking arse.

          Warning, the drinking of copious amounts of alcohol mixed with lots of sex often results in the patter of tiny feet* and associated shacking up together and getting all respectable (no more alcohol fuelled orgies for you).

          Take it from someone who has been there. The sex begins to dry up as well.

          *Ours never ‘pattered’ both of them thumped, right through until they left home and especially after alcohol fuelled nights with the boyfriend . . .

          1. cream wobbly

            Re: re: As he found out they are a pain in the fucking arse.

            Aren't you the party pooper?

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: re: As he found out they are a pain in the fucking arse.

              Aren't you the party pooper?

              See, again, that role is usually filled by the offspring.

              (Though personally I am quite fond of mine, now unto the second generation.)

      5. Aussie Doc
        Paris Hilton

        Far be it for me to judge but if 'they are a pain in the fucking arse' you may be doing it wrong.

        Or right.

        I don't judge.

  3. katrinab Silver badge

    Not a very strong lineup

    "My other computer is your server". That's good. I like that one.

    The encryption machine one is OK, but looks a bit 1940s Blechley Park.

    The rest of them are rubbish. None of them deserve a bronze medal.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Not a very strong lineup

      Yes the encryption machine is reasonable. It's just left me wondering what she wanted to tell John. I wonder if there's some kind of back door to her machine I can use to find out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not a very strong lineup

        It looks like a FAX machine - so I'd be thinking I need to put in a support call (or buy a new one) if it turns my message into garbage.

        Either that or we're seeing uuencoded data of a rather questionable picture she's sending.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Not a very strong lineup

        Traditionally a "Dear John" letter has a specific subject.

        1. Blazde Silver badge

          Re: Not a very strong lineup

          Hello John, I would like to tell you that I've met someone. He's called Bob. Have a nice life, Alice

          1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

            Re: Not a very strong lineup

            Hello Alice, sorry... but it's over hun. I need to tell you that I've just met someone. He's called John. Have a nice life, Bob.

            1. Ordinary Donkey

              Re: Not a very strong lineup

              Hi, Alice, I hear that you've been having relationship trouble recently.

              Have you considered that you might be fishing in the wrong pond?

              Give it a thought, then call me.

              Eve -x-

          2. Soruk

            Re: Not a very strong lineup

            Alice? Who the fsck is Alice?

          3. Arachnoid

            Hello John

            By the time you have decrypted this message I will have left home with the kids and all the money from our Bank account.

        2. Muscleguy

          Re: Not a very strong lineup

          Or this one from back in the ‘80s and NZ TV

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "The encryption machine one is OK, but looks a bit 1940s Blechley Park."

      It will tell users a fax is still good and fashionable, even when it outputs garbled pages...

    3. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Not a very strong lineup

      From a usability point of view they are all sub-par: Such an image needs to be immediately recognizable (no "What am I looking at?" moment), and most of all versatile, meaning able to illustrate any article having something to do with information security, which goes from Equifax over ransomware to (private or state) spying.

      IMHO, while individually quite good, none of those pictures qualifies as well as the old hoodie hacker as a versatile generic illustration for information security. They only illustrate specific aspects, and they all need some decoding.

      The hoodie hacker is a meme: By now everybody including normal people instantly recognizes him as a archetypal computer-related security threat, and as an illustration he can stand for anyone and anything.

      1. Aussie Doc

        Re: Not a very strong lineup

        I agree - it's just like dealing with upper manglement who don't believe anything is an issue unless it has the word 'cyber' in front of it.

        Whilst some of these are 'good' not many convey the automatic recognition that I feel was being looked for.

    4. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Not a very strong lineup

      I liked the encryption machine on the best.

    5. cream wobbly

      Re: Not a very strong lineup

      Nah, the "my other computer" one is making a clever point, but it's still that kid off War Games. Can we not do the War Games / "script kiddie" reference?

      The last one I have to guess was added for shaming purposes only. Disembodied feet and (what is that supposed to be? a what? okay, so disembodied black people's feet and ...) landmines! It took a genius, I guess.

  4. Steve Button Silver badge

    "you all love to hate"

    Oh, not just me then.

    It's not just info security though, it's most of the stories on the Reg. It's almost as if the lazy hacks at El Reg just put something into the search box for Shutterstock and then whatever comes up say "That'll do, let's go down the pub".

    1. First Light

      Re: "you all love to hate"

      I like the cheesy, stock, undoubtedly royalty-free photos. However, I also support the concept of employing art directors and staff.

      1. cream wobbly

        Re: "you all love to hate"

        I like the concept of doing down the pub... At least my time there will be more productive than this sorry lot we were asked to look at today.

        But here's the thing: The Matrix was one of the first pieces of popular culture that portrayed modern hacking with any remote semblance of accuracy. (Sure, sure, wardialling, and all that, but that was just phreaking.) It was still pretty poor but at least it wasn't a completely made-up interface. More recent examples have either been factual (Zero Day) therefore dull as beans, or trying too hard to make the act of hacking itself almost a character in itself (some BBC thing I can't remember the name of after reading about it just a few moments ago); therefore ... oh dear - also dull as beans.

        So quite honestly, I don't mind if they continue using those green phosphor backwards kanji waterfalls. At least it's from an exciting movie that references something that references something something something.

        But give me a break on the hoodies. I hate wearing hoodies.

      2. Stoneshop

        Re: "you all love to hate"

        However, I also support the concept of employing art directors and staff.

        That would severely cut into the pub budget. So, no.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "you all love to hate"

      Try picking one yourself. It's either PowerPoint graphics, suits, padlocks or hoodies.

    3. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: "you all love to hate"

      "It's almost as if the lazy hacks at El Reg just put something into the search box for Shutterstock and then whatever comes up say "That'll do, let's go down the pub"

      Are you new here by any chance?

      1. ds6 Silver badge

        Re: "you all love to hate"

        No, my name is John.

  5. OGShakes

    Stock Photos

    As the son of a graphic designer I know what fun it can be to find a stock photo that fit and is not generic in some way. (how is the everywhere girl doing these days I wonder?) At one point my dad was using so many photos of generic football teams and referees doing things, that the company he worked for paid for a a photo shoot with a bunch of my mates in football/rugby gear. 20+ years on and I have never seen any of the photos used, I suspect no one who works there now even knows they have them.

  6. Adrian 4

    normal people

    The best two are the girl with the encryption machine and the boy with the pocket terminal. Both feature 'normal' people instead of the dodgy mugger types or the soviet style graphics, though the girl loses by being a cartoon depiction too. A real photo would be much better and easy to stage.

    I'm no photographer or graphic artist. But perhaps something along this theme would do well ? Maybe a hipster with a laptop .. and a table of account names and passwords on the screen ?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: normal people

      Perhaps the woman should be handing a page of garbled text to someone and asking them to deliver it to <person> - they'll know how to read it.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: normal people

      I wonder what Noomi Rapace is doing nowadays?

      1. MacroRodent

        Re: normal people

        Lisbeth Salander, you mean? Definitely my favourite fictional hacker character. Have not seen the films, except the first one (the original Swedish version), but in the books she kicks ass both on-line and real life, and the hacks depicted are uncommonly plausible, for fiction that is.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: normal people

          Do yourself a favour and see the remaing two Swedish films. They are all three excellent and true to the books.

          Do yourself another favour and skip the Lagercrantz sequels and the American movies.

          Agree whole heartedly that Lisbeth Salander is an excellent character and I suggest we need more like her in real life.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Creating a politically correct stereotype proved daunting - too daunting, in fact.

    Stereotypes for their very nature tend to build on a specific characteristic of a type - the good or the bad ones - depending on the effect you need.

    Trying to make them "politically correct" it's obviously a task doomed to fail.

    All of those entries are hard to read and understand, and conveying the wrong meaning at first glance. IMHO only Jason Kravitz images are quite direct, albeit they use something already see on bump stickers, and he worked in Cybersec. Most of the others are artists trying to display concepts they couldn't really grasp and display.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Creating a politically correct stereotype proved daunting - too daunting, in fact.

        You should ask them, it was them writing

        Too often, visuals in the cybersecurity space reflect surface level understanding influenced by sensationalist media. We see pictures of locks, white men in hoodies, or green 1s and 0s that do little to convey the reality of this complicated, critically important topic.

        With this Challenge, we hope to elevate imagery that better represents the cybersecurity space in an accessible and compelling manner.

        We're looking for: Visual creators from diverse backgrounds eager to apply their skill set to this important work.

        When I read "white men" (bad!) "diverse background" (good!) inevitably "politically correct" comes to my mind.

        I think they will want to redesign Santa Claus next...

        1. cream wobbly

          Re: Creating a politically correct stereotype proved daunting - too daunting, in fact.

          "I think they will want to redesign Santa Claus next..."

          You mean he shouldn't be that one-eyed God riding an eight legged horse getting all up in your dreams?

          Or did you mean one of the later iterations of Lord Winter?

    2. Muscleguy

      Re: Creating a politically correct stereotype proved daunting - too daunting, in fact.

      And the hoodie and binary waterfall is language free, works the world over without translation. The others require translation in different countries/regions and probably colouring the skin tones too.

      Hoodie guy is any race you want except perhaps Masai and Pigmy and even then perhaps.

    3. cream wobbly

      Re: Creating a politically correct stereotype proved daunting - too daunting, in fact.

      "Trying to make them "politically correct" it's obviously a task doomed to fail."

      Since political correctness just means respectful behavior, what are you saying? Oh, you're saying:

      "Trying to make them "respectful" it's obviously a task doomed to fail."

      Can we not do this, please? Making something respectful really isn't hard.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Since political correctness just means respectful behavior "

        Oh, I don't know. When the stereotype IT guy was the fat unkempt bespectacled white guy, eating cold pizza left from the previous days, living in his parents' basement among electronics junk, or in a company cubicle, everything was OK. It wasn't respectful, but no one complained.

        Now the menacing hooded guy is a problem? Maybe because he's not someone you can laugh at? While he became someone people would like to be alike, because he "got the power", makes a lot of money, owns and uses proficiently the now fashionable tech people want too, and even "gets the handsome chicks" - unlike the fat nerdy guy?

        "Political correctness" was never about real respect.

  8. Electronics'R'Us
    Big Brother

    LOTR might have a suitable image

    The all seeing eye of Sauron perhaps?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    matrix hoodie

    I’ve never had issues with the matrix/hoodie graphics to present the idea of “3V1L H@X0Rz”. But when doing internal infosec presentations I tend to use an image of the lady at reception overlaid on the stock “hooded bad guy”. Or even a pic of my 10-year-old tapping away on his keyboard. Usually that gets their attention, even more when I explain that my kid knows more about networking than the audience ever will...

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: matrix hoodie

      Getting peoples' attention can be achieved with any, not necessarily computer or security related pictures: Let's say, for instance, Murnau's Nosferatu.

      While a vampire would be totally irrelevant to the competition at hand, it still is a good illustration of "threat lurking in the shadows, waiting to drink your (company's) lifeblood".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: matrix hoodie

        A vampire would be even less relevant than my youngster. I usually try to get my audience to understand that the hoodied vilain can be anyone, including their own children, or their grey-bearded retired neighbour.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: matrix hoodie

          It's not about relevance: The suggested vampire (was just a random example BTW) is obviously meant symbolically, while your youngster could indeed be a criminal in our everyday reality. Our approaches are simply different, while both being attempts to illustrate an abstract concept, "the dangers of the IT world".

          Don't forget the "I usually try to get my audience to understand" part is specific to your own use: A good concept illustration needs to be able to speak for itself (illustrating an article on a website for instance). You clearly use your illustrations as discussion starters (good idea BTW), while the point of this competition was to find a standalone concept illustration to decorate inert media like news articles and such.

  10. fidodogbreath


    Back to hoodies and numberfalls, then. Carry on.

  11. Brian Miller

    CPU lid pried open, 0's and 1's being burgled


  12. Cynic_999

    Language barrier

    A good infosec should work in all countries no matter what language is spoken. So I'd fail all the images that use English text.

  13. Bitsminer Silver badge

    Opportunity lost

    It would be too easy to sit here and poke fun at people who actually had a go at it in good faith

    And you didn't? Who are you and what have you done with El Reg?

  14. lafnlab


    C'mon, Reg hacks! This is the perfect opportunity for you to break out the Playmobil set.

  15. martinusher Silver badge

    Its the problem with being 'in the trade'

    I've seen quite a few generic hacking pictures featuring a bit of meaningless Javascript, probably just purloined from a web page the designer had open at the time. The waterfalling green screen numbers dates from the early 80s, as does the whole Matrix ethos (has everyone forgotten that the Matrix featured landlines, modems and acoustic couplers?). The problem with this loser/loner image is that it perpetuates a myth and so blinds us to the real problem. I don't know any hacking outfits but I suspect a lot of them are indistinguishable from a legitimate software operation on the surface. It may even be fronted by a legitimate business to deflect scrutiny (and also act as front-end vetting for potential new employees). It, like any other operations, may well use both on-site and off-site consultants.

    I've never worked at this type of operation but I remember my son having a summer job when he was a student that looked decidedly dicey. The company itself looked legitimate but seemed to have two tiers; he got sucked into the second tier because he was smart, computer savvy yet totally ignorant. ("Ideal fresh meat") The company itself described its operation as "Search Engine Optimizers" or some such, a trade which I regard as a bit near the edge to start with, but the outer tier was doing just nuisance stuff like making up fake blog posts. The other lot -- suffice to say, when he described what he was being asked to do I recommended he leg it (and effectively paid him to do it). This sort of business is, as you can imagine, one that's here today, gone tomorrow but pops up down the street with a different name but same players. Its probably both 'in the cloud' and largely off-shored these day (but you can be the principals are still active, assuming that they're not in jail).

  16. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Here's an idea

    Quit treating us like morons, and stop putting stupid stock images on articles in the first place.

    If it's an article about someone in particular, sure, show a picture of them, but otherwise... you don't need a patronising tenuously linked image on every bloody article.

    And no, you're not having your ball back.

    1. Amentheist

      Re: Here's an idea

      I thought it's something SEO related. Basically Google decided they'll rank the Web in a certain way and you bloody well better follow suit.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Here's an idea

      Or just use a picture of kittens. Everyone loves kittens. And if you use it often enough, it will eventually be associated with infosec anyway.

    3. DGarner

      Re: Here's an idea

      This seems more logical comments in this thread! And, if there is a more appropriate image that can be used for telling a thousand words in few seconds, that would be much better.. nowadays.. who reads those boring articles and policies!

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Here's an idea


        These days, when you see an article that actually has a photo of the perp. you have to think "is this a photo of the caught dodgy guy, or stock photo-11422i2-dodgy-looking-guy-after-being-caught!"

  17. Long John Brass

    Idea #42

    How about two suit clad miscreants one male one female wearing anonymous masks legging it with a swag bag spilling ones, zeroes and money?

    1. The Nazz

      Re: Idea #42

      Instant thought, never a good idea.

      How about two C class executives, one male, one female (not politically correct these days?) spunking money all over the place and out through an open window?

      On a side note, stock photos, the girl student with the blondish frizzy hair (oft used by the BBC also) just how large is her student loan these days?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Idea #42

      Too generic, or, more precisely, not IT related: Could as well illustrate any shady/stupid business practices.

      Besides hardly relevant to illustrate an article about (for instance) network intrusion or denial of service.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Idaho Oreos contest? Potato flavour, I say!

  19. depressed penguin

    Edward Snowdon?

    A universally known icon involved with hacking.

  20. DGarner

    Good initiative towards cybersecurity

    This is not just a stock photo replacement contest, but a step towards reimagining how we communicate about cybersecurity with common people, to make sure it is easy to understand... (As a developer you may know what 0 and 1 is for, you may know what a hoodie man in the basement is represnted for) this is a contest to help everyone to understand different types of technical jargons.. so, visuals seems to be the best way to communicate that. Do you really want to make cyberspace threats like a vampire story? No right? And do you always find stock photos with right message? No.. so, making illustrations seems more practical. All of this is for to communicate the right message... not a generic emotion of fear. there is enough to read in their website

  21. Danny 2


    I'm with Androgynous Cupboard. I associate hackers with kittens, well cats in general. At the height of my power I would walk into a huge organisation in a green velvet jacket and all the elderly crazy cat women would flock to me, because they noticed the orange fur on my jacket. I strongly encourage someone to invent a meme of a kitten on a keyboard.

    If anyone is short of a reason to laugh then search for videos about bad sheepdogs, often found under "lied on my CV/Resume". One wee Westie getting chased around by a handful of sheep, one collie dug rolling on it's back as the sheep nuzzle it. Funniest thing ever though was seeing a macho Australian getting butted off of a Scottish ben by a wild sheep. That's not on video but it was priceless. He could have died, he didn't, and it would still been funny. Did I mention he was a macho Australian? He never saw the sheep coming.

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