Five Personality Traits of Hackers

Hacker Psychology
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Following on from last week’s article on black and white hat hackers, we found an interesting study on the personality traits of hackers.

The research includes a grouping of personality indicators that was developed in the 80s and is still used today. The traits are as follows:

TraitSample Statement
Agreeableness“I have a soft heart.”
Conscientiousness“I am always prepared.”
Extraversion“I am the life of the party.”
Neuroticism“I worry about things.”
Openness to Experience“I am quick to understand things.”

The following study was conducted by Andik Matulessy and Nabilla H. Humaira in 2016. They used a sample of hackers, ranging from white to black to grey hats. All were unmarried men between the ages of 19 and 28. Two examples from all three categories were interviewed, one of the pair would be a beginner hacker whereas the other would be a veteran. They all came from various educational backgrounds, from high school to bachelor’s degrees. This is what they found:

Type of HackerExperienceProminent Traits
White HatBeginnerExtraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness neuroticism and openness to experience.
White HatVeteranExtraversion, conscientiousness and openness to experience.
Grey HatBeginnerExtraversion and neuroticism.
Grey HatVeteranConscientiousness and openness to experience.
Black HatBeginnerOpenness to experience.
Black HatVeteranExtraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

The results show that extraversion, i.e. a strong sense of self-importance, is more abundant in white and grey hats. Additionally, veteran hackers, across all hats, display traits of ‘conscientiousness’, vast experience across multiple hacking disciplines provides a sense of confidence to be prepared for anything. This is very useful especially when it comes to quick thinking for a cybersecurity breach.

In both grey and white hat beginners, neuroticism is a common trait. In this industry, things can quickly go downhill so it wouldn’t be too adventurous to say that part of that trait is paranoia which comes part-and-parcel with the position.

But most importantly, this study highlights that hackers are still human (a fact that is very often forgotten), and that they aren’t necessarily all bad people.

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