As our world continues to digitalize everything, and all our sensitive information is online one way or the other, cybersecurity became a trending topic. Cyber attacks are constantly reported and extensively covered in the news, and all over social media. And there’s a surge of computer security companies and experts advertising their services and warning about the dangers of poor data protection, everywhere.
Hackers –the perpetrators of all these cyber crimes– have always been a bit of urban mythical figures. But thanks to how poorly they’re represented in the news and other visual communications, they’re now more of a satirical character.
Don’t believe us? Just have a look at the hilariously bad hackers stock photos everyone uses, that we list below. And after belly laughing, check out what better, more engaging, and not so ridiculous alternatives you can use instead!
Hundreds of variations of the following pictures are seen every day, everywhere, every time someone talks about cybersecurity or cyber attacks. Please, don’t use any of them… except for creating a good meme or if you're a fan of bizarre and weird stock photos, for that they’re okay.
The “hacktivist” collective Anonymous became a part of daily conversations… and also inspired a new cheesy stock image that quickly turned into a cliché: the anonymous computer hacker, a.k.a. the man wearing a white mask (be it the signature one from the collective, or any other creepy one) while sitting at a computer desk. It’s every blogger’s go-to picture every time they read “cyber attack” in their content. Can we, please, not?
Okay, at least he’s not sporting the cartoonish mask, but… really? The only way to portray a hacker of unknown identity is to… make him faceless? Over conceptual, overdone. Just, let it be over.
The Dark Hooded Figure
No stock photo cyber criminal leaves their home without their baggy black hoodie, which both helps to hide their face, and gives them that unequivocal, grim-reaper-of-the-coded-world look. The guy is shady, we understand, no need for his clothes to make a statement about it.
The Gloved Hands
Hackers leave no traces. That’s the motto they live by, right? Which explains why so many bad stock images show “hacker hands” typing on a computer keyboard with gloves on. Badass black leather gloves, or creepy white ones that seem more suitable for a magician than an outlaw, but gloves nonetheless. Let’s not underestimate our audience, many of them understand what digital footprints mean in Internet crime, so the gloves need to go.
Working in the Dark
Again with the over-conceptualizing. Just because hackers work “in the dark”, behind the scenes, secretly, hidden… doesn’t mean all of them do have to be depicted in a dark room, sometimes with a computer screen projecting binary code in green as the only source of light. There’s probably a light switch on their workspace… let them use it.
Literal Hack Attack
If extremely conceptual was bad, literal images of hacker attacks are just hysterical. Hackers using axes, hammers, and even baseball bats against a computer or server. Seriously?!
So if you have to report cyber crimes or promote data security services, what do you do? Easy! You resort to stock photos with a cyber security concept that is modern, appealing, and not so laugh-inducing.
Quick note: if you want to use images to illustrate editorial content, make sure to check our guide on editorial image licenses!
Here are some examples:
Everything technology and computer-related is still heavily linked to futuristic concepts. Hybrid imagery that combines photography with graphics to create digital-like concepts works great, especially if you choose pictures of people touching holographic-like screens or buttons.
Abstract and Symbolic Elements
You can illustrate cyber security conceptually, without being too cliché. Digital backgrounds in the usual black and neon-like blue or green, or even close-ups of computer keyboards or even motherboards are alright to use, as long as you don’t overdo it. Graphic elements such as padlocks, shields, and fingerprints are good as well.
Show the Users
Why focus on the hacker only, if cyber security is about protecting users (and their personal data)? Images of people are an all-time top-performer in marketing, and this topic has multiple angles to use: people worriedly staring at computer monitors, or holding credit cards as they type on a laptop keyboard. You get the point.
If you want to highlight the dangers or potential damage that a cyber attack can make, you can still do so without having a masked hacker smashing a computer with an ax. You can use images of computers with a software crash screen, or a “security error” warning pop-up flashing on it, for example.
And last but not least, if you really want to show a hacker image, make sure it’s a modern and authentic one. Real-life hackers are, first of all, not all men! Don’t be afraid to use a photo of a woman. Then, you can be a bit stereotypic without being full-on cliché: choose photos of people with a geek-like style about them, young and dressed casually as they appear focused on the monitor in front of them.
Here is a quick list of the best stock photo sites to buy modern and not-cliché, royalty-free stock photos of hackers and cyber security themes.
This German stock photo site excels in authentic, artsy photos with a unique vibe. It's the place to find modern and non-stocky images.
Shutterstock is very popular for its gigantic stock image library, with millions upon millions of commercial-ready photos. If you want variety, this is the site for you.
iStock is a stock photo agency that offers both budget-friendly images and exclusive, more high-end content. In both segments of their catalog, you will find beautiful and very modern pictures.
Stockphotos.com thrives to fulfill the visual needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Their flexible and affordable pricing, paired with a large collection of high-resolution images, is perfect for most designer's needs.
Adobe Stock is Adobe's own stock photo service. Aimed at creative professionals, their library is very trendy and here you will find the latest visual jewels in every topic and style.
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