When arrests were made in London this summer in conjunction with the original Sony hack, the alleged hackers represented what most of us would think of as the typical hacker: They were young - late teens or early 20s - and male. I saw some stories that mentioned the teenager was hacking from his parents' house.
Obviously, in order to have stereotypes, some of the people within the group need to fit into those parameters. No doubt a number of the members of groups like Anonymous, LulzSec and Script Kiddies are young men, too young to buy a legal drink and living at home. But at the RSA Conference Europe, a panel discussion of security experts pointed out that the actual face of hacking groups could surprise you. Akamai Director of Security Intelligence Joshua Corman and one of the discussion speakers said hacking groups have a very diverse constituent base. According to V3.co.UK:
Some are "very political", some are housewives, some have no hacking skills-while others are so-called "greyhats" with day jobs in information security, and a lot are students.
As another panel member, HBGary Federal President Aaron Barr, told the group, quoted in The Inquirer:
Anonymous is a loose linked, anarchic group of personalities and people that could include your mum. They are chaotic. Anonymous is a very complex organisation. Anyone can join and anyone can co-opt the movement. There is some order, but there is also a lot of flexibility with the group.
OK, students do fit into the stereotype profile, but Corman added that the students are joining hacking groups to develop their skills and he called out the IT security industry for not trying to engage these young people with the skills and interest - people who could put hacking to good use rather than cause trouble.
It reminds me of when my son was growing up and many of his friends were skateboard enthusiasts. They would ride their skateboards on public property, a serious nuisance to citizens and property. Their intent wasn't to cause problems, but they wanted to do tricks on their skateboards and there was no place other than the steps and railings in town to do so. They were treated as bad, unruly kids until the community built a skate park - outlet created and problem solved.
Perhaps the IT security industry needs to reach out to bored housewives, too?