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Computer hacking is the biggest story in the world now—too bad all the photos are so weird

Reuters/Kacper Pempel
I’m a hacker, this is literally what I look like.
  • Johnny Simon
By Johnny Simon

Deputy Photo Editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Computer hacking is arguably one of the biggest stories today, from ongoing discussion of the 2016 phishing attack on the US Democratic National Committee to last week’s debilitating WannaCry ransomware attack. Unfortunately, this serious issue which affects billions of people has led to a flood of comically bad stock photography in the news.

It’s hard to illustrate a story about computer hacking. We almost never know what the hackers look like and where they are. They’re rarely up for being photographed. And the result of hacking is often visually dull: Stolen emails? Ok. Leaked credit card info? Terrible, but boring. What we’re usually left with is a stock image of a computer screen, a dull photo of a piece of technology (the imposing server rack, the subtly dangerous thumbdrive) or lastly the inexplicable illustration trope I like to call “Something something cybersecurity shadowy computer guy?”

Here are some of the best (worst) images circulating on the web:


Reuters/Mal Langsdon

Nothing says “global panic inducing cyberattack” like a pile of keychains.

Reuters/Michael Caronna

Right, reading a computer screen with a magnifying glass. The thing that everyone does.

This is an accurate depiction of a hacker. They are green and made of numbers.

Reuters/Kacper Pempel

Oops, I lost my password. Good thing I still have my magnifying glass handy.

Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

Tappity-tap-tap I’m a hacker. Matrix Matrix Matrix.

Reuters/Kacper Pempel

China, one of the world’s largest national landmasses. Viewable only via your special cybersecurity magnifying glass.

Reuters/Edgar Su

It might not look like much, but a lot of hacking is going on in this photo.

Reuters/Thomas Peter

A hacker is so dangerous, he’s rated 12 on the Guy Fawkes scale. The Guy Fawkes Scale only goes up to 10.

Reuters/Dado Ruvic

The same tappity-tap-tap Matrix guy from before, but his roommate just turned on the lights.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Just a phone.

Carolyn Kaster

I pick on these photos out of love. Wire photographers send images back from the furthest corners of the world, often risking their lives, to help us understand what is happening everyday. Sometimes, though, the news is abstract and doesn’t fit into a photo.

Perhaps we should be thankful that hacking hasn’t manifested itself yet into scenarios more conducive to photography. Would photo editors prefer buildings on fire and people starving because of the actions of a massive-scale hack? Of course not.

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