profiling hacker profiling

Dan Morrill posted about the Hacker Profiling Project, and I thought I’d wax on about it a bit. (Can you profile which blogs I read when I’m swamped and have no time?)

My initial reaction is to scoff at the idea of profiling a group of people who tend to be very independent and free-thinking. I groan at the horrible use of the term “hacker.” And I laugh at some of the questions on the site (ugh) which could fit almost every teenager I’ve ever known and beyond. Basically, I already don’t find this useful. At all.

This is an amateur opinion. I’ve done no research and really don’t care to, but these are just my Monday-morning quarterback thoughts. I’ve seen CSI, X-Files, Silence of the Lambs, Hackers, and Mindhunters, so I feel I can comment on this topic. Oh, and I can browse Wikipedia too. Ignore my abuse of the term “hackers;” they started it.

I’ll buy that one can profile hackers to a degree, but I would suspect that such profiling is ultimately measurably (if not greatly) less accurate than profiling other criminals such as murderers, sociopaths, arsonists, and abusers. I’d suspect that profiling either nets far more people than are criminal hackers, or catches the same obvious ones other profiling methods catch (bed-wetters, torture small animals, history of abuse, etc).

I’m a prime candidate for never being profiled. If I were to decide to become a serial killer of some sort or other, no one would be able to actually profile me terribly accurately. I’d just be your average suburban white Joe who, in a vacuum, decided to commit fairly random acts of violence despite my unremarkably ordinary upbringing. You can’t predict or track that. It helps that I don’t associate with any negative influencers, which might artficially hasten my crossing over the line of a first offense.

Much of the profiling seems to occur based on one’s propensity to cross that moral line between good and evil. Either one has a warped sense of that line (childhood nurturing), or one has already crossed it (repeat offender who escalates).

I’ve posted about it in the past, but I like to refer to an old study which I can never find links to that put a group of strangers into a room to hang out. Their social behavior was then studied. In a separate group, they were also put into a room to hang out, but in this case with the lights turned off. It can almost be obvious to guess which group got into a little bit more michievous trouble with touching and exploration.

Typically, hacking is far removed from actually physically harming a living thing. It is more than one level removed. It is easier to profile someone who takes sexual pleasure in death or killing than it is to profile a spree killer, which is easier to profile than someone who beats someone else to death on accident, which is easier to profile than someone who engages in regular fighting, which is easier to profile than someone who drives a Tahoe which guzzles gas and leads to famine and death in Africa because of messed up economics. Ok, so I jumped a bit there…

By the way, is it coincidence that profiling seems to be a very individual affair? You don’t profile groups of people doing bad things, you profile individuals with psychological habits…

Likewise, it is obvious when someone is harmed physically, but not so obvious when one’s actions negatively influence the well-being of someone else. Think of the difference between spitting in one’s burger in the kitchen versus spitting in it right in front of the customer.

So, we have a propensity towards more mischievous behavior with actual or perceived anonymity. So we have a blurred moral line that is not quite so obvious as having crossed the line with one’s first murder or theft. And we have a distance between the crime and the perpetrator which deadens the psychological gain or satiation.

I think all of this leads to an unpredictable sense of profiling hackers to any degree.

All said, I think there are situations where “hackers” can be profiled, but I don’t think there will be any sort of degree of accuracy involved in such a profile. Certainly not enough to waste my time with. (It is possible my hacker score just went up by ending a sentence with a preposition; an obvious thumbing to the authority of good grammar!)