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The Cat in the black Hat

Building an understanding around the types of hackers that exist allows for more awareness in dealing with potential security threats.

Photo of Yane Clarke

Written by

Sketch 1 (1,500 characters)

The primary reason I chose to work with the .gif format was because gifs are an easily consumed form of media. Gifs can be aesthetically appealing and people can use them for inspiration for other art forms such as a video, photo concepts or cartoon media. I have included multiple drafted static artworks which were also used in the development of the gifs. One gif didn't turn out, as it was too intense, with black and white colours competing. The idea being that there would be a transition between white hat, gray hats and black hat hackers; All of which, would of course be cats. There were several reasons why cats were chosen as a source of inspiration. The first being an example of how a black hat can misrepresent themselves. Many black hat hackers often do this to establish the trust of people around them, take control of a system, or just because they can. One of the reasons I chose to work with the idea of a hacker-cat or black-hat cat is because it rhymes which makes it easy to remember. Cat's also share a familiar curiosity which many people can relate to. I would love to see the concept come to life in an animated skit as well, which might evaluate black hats and white hats in a comical way, to help give end-users an understanding to some of the motivations and challenges that shape the security landscape. After several revisions I chose to adapt a visual representation of the concept of red vs blue team wargames, and try to find more approachable static imagery.

Sketch 2 (1,500 characters)

I wanted to tie the world of poppy cat gifs and technology with a simple play on words. I also wanted to do this while also being engaging. Even if the user isn't tech savy, they could read what was being 'printed to the screen'. It gives you the feeling of your computer going wild. Something just out of control, while also being interesting enough to stay engaged. Hackers will use all tools at their disposal to their advantage, from kernel exploits to simply reading a log file. Benign .gifs might seem cute or interesting at first but using tools like stenography, hackers could potentially encode messages, malware, rootkits. It's the duty of those with the technical know how to find ways to ELI5 to people who have the right to understand the technology they are using. I believe art and digital media is a great way to do this, as individuals should be able to be informed in a simple, memorable and user friendly way. This can be done to help build awareness, from the pitfalls of technology to the ethical standpoints of different types of hackers. In this gif, I tried to bring some of that to the table. To extend on this, I made another simple graphic of two cats on opposing sides of a brick wall, both waiting for the other to do something interesting. This illustrates to me the construct of security analysts with different ethical perspectives.

What have you learned through this sketching process? (1,000 characters)

Designing relatable visuals in regard to a community that is in front of a computer screen most of the time is hard to do. An individuals day might consist of filtering through packets, updating firewall policies, checking logs and testing for vulnerabilities; The question I faced was, how do I keep it interesting while still being on topic? In my opinion, the key is to find a point of intrigue and explain that using an inviting form of media without going very deep. If someone isn't interested in the actual work a cyber security professional is doing, at least they will walk away knowing the lay of the land in terms they can relate to. If they are interested, they will be able to ask more meaningful questions.

Tell us more about you. (1,000 characters)

I am a freelance developer and pentester with an artistic streak. I like to build new and interesting projects and am always working on something to keep me busy.

Why are you participating in this Challenge? (750 characters)

I saw it on a news link and thought it would be a good way to invest my experience and skills with some free time on my hands. I am excited for the future of technology, but I am inspired when I can explain a tech concept in simple easily consumable way.

What is your experience with the field of cybersecurity?

  • I have considerable experience and/or knowledge in the cybersecurity field.

What best describes you?

  • I’m a cybersecurity professional with an interest in visuals.

How did you hear about this OpenIDEO Challenge?

  • In the news

Location: City


Location: State / District


Location: Country

  • Australia


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


I like the concept of animated images. I may be insensitive, but I did not actually see "a cat in the hat" image in the submission until I read the text accompanying the sketches and then looked again, so perhaps some contrast between the parts of the image might help, if it doesn't make the project so complex as to be unwieldy. I think if you are going to do one language version, I would stick with English, which frankly is the most common language of the Internet but Jean Godard's point might be taken into account by having text strings in several languages: one in English, another in French, a third in Spanish, or perhaps even in just graphic symbols that suggest a language without actually representing one.

As a fellow entrant, I invite you to visit my submission and let me know what you think.

I would like to add animation to future works, so any references about how to build such images would be greatly appreciated.

Best of luck.

John Messing

Photo of Yane Clarke

Hey John, it's super easy to animate a project in a gif format in this way with free software such as GIMP. There are many tutorials online, essentially it boils down to simply creating the frames you would like to use/multiple layers; then syncing them up and saving them as a gif. You're right, I got carried away tinkering with the artistic style and medium that I slowly moved away from the initial concept. I think it had a lot of potential to go in different directions so I tried to explore as many as I could in a couple days.

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