Cyber Shrink

This an excerpt from a story in Endeavors , read the entire piece here.

Michael Bachmann is tall. Even in Texas, where large seems to be the natural order of things, the native German takes up a lot of headroom. Asked to guess his occupation, you might hazard something physically demanding, like ranger or sheriff, and in a way, he’s both of those. But instead of rugged cliffs or city streets, TCU’s assistant professor of criminal justice keeps a watch on the virtual world. As a kid, he fell in love with computers. In high school, he worked part-time to buy parts then built his own. But he was also interested in what made humans tick.

At the University of Mannheim, Germany, he studied sociology, and was stunned in December 2000 when a hacker in Sweden hijacked servers at the nearby University of Kaiserslautern. Bachmann was both fascinated and appalled that classified software for U.S. missile guidance systems in a “secure” office in Washington could be hacked via Germany by one guy manipulating code in his living room. He realized that cyberspace had fundamentally changed human interactions. The incident pointed him directly toward his future.

Pursuing doctoral studies in criminal sociology in the U.S. a few years later, he set out to understand the hacker mind-set. “Michael was a self-starter,” says then-head of University of Central Florida’s sociology department, Jay Corzine. “He excelled at research methods, and devised his own instrument to profile the underground hacking community. He then asked organizers of a well-known hacker conference to distribute it to their participants.” Bachmann fielded the first-ever quantitative survey of hackers in 2007 at SchmooCon, the second-largest hacker conference in the country. The result not only won UCF’s Outstanding Dissertation Award but also garnered Bachmann interviews with a Washington-based think tank.

“Mysterious and sinister basement dwellers, clever, yet lonesome male adolescents whose computer wizardry compensates for social shortcomings,” is how most people tend to stereotype hackers, says Bachmann. But when hackers are mounting attacks on digital infrastructure with ever more frequency, solid profiling — not stereotyping — is crucial, both to help anticipate and to deter cybercrime.

Bachmann found hackers to be sociable, creative risk-takers, with many of the most prolific attackers well past their teens. His survey examined hackers’ preferred targets, methods and success levels, as well as their personalities.

This an excerpt from a story in Endeavors , read the entire piece here.

Comments are closed.