Science & Tech
Study confirms computer hacker stereotype

Credits: Mike Drew/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

BRIAN DALY | QMI AGENCY

MONTREAL - A new study supports the stereotype of the computer hacker -- most are antisocial man-children who live in their parents' basements.

University of Montreal Prof. Benoit Dupont will present his findings next week at a criminology conference.

Dupont studied police evidence on 10 hackers between 17 and 27 years old, arrested in Quebec in 2008.

One of them was internationally known as Mafiaboy, whose attacks crippled the websites of Yahoo Inc., eBay, CNN, Dell and Amazon.com.

The Montreal teen's slowdown attacks caused millions of dollars in losses and kicked off an international manhunt including the RCMP and the FBI.

While such attacks are costly and annoying, Dupont found that the hackers rarely profit from their cybercrimes.

"The problem that they faced is that they weren't able to convert their technical competence into financial profit," said Dupont, who studies cyber-invaders from Canada, the United States and England, and found a similar profile.

The typical hacker is male, in his 20s, and is usually socially immature. Many have criminal records for non-digital crimes such as drug dealing and uttering threats.

About one-third lived with their parents.

"The more information we accumulate from hacker arrests, the more we find that these are characteristics that recur frequently," Dupont said.

Hackers who do try to monetize their crimes find that a lack of social skills makes it hard to work with people.

"They have to master social skills, or else their (companies) are pretty dysfunctional," Dupont said.

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