On the relation between hacking and autism or autistic traits: a systematic review of the scientific evidence

Jennifer Wagner, Samuela Bolgan, Elena Rusconi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


According to a popular stereotype, hackers are very confident in understanding computer systems but appear quite awkward in real-life social contexts. They are mostly male. They could spend days on end in a secluded basement slaving away on their computer, working in solitude. Social awkwardness, obsessive interests, and extreme focus could fit the profile of a person shifted towards the autistic end of a continuum of individual traits, which are more frequently found in males. However, this putative association between hacking and autism or autistic traits could be just a popular myth, derived for example from selective media reporting, movies, TV series, and literary representations. To clarify this issue, here, we have conducted a systematic review of the available scientific literature probing the relation between hacking and autism or autistic traits. We have identified three main themes towards which all empirical efforts have been directed so far: skills and interests in hacking-related activities, involvement in cybercrime, and vulnerability to cybercrime. Whereas research on skills and interests does offer evidence of an association between hacking and autistic traits, both research on involvement in cybercrime and research on vulnerability to cybercrime provide inconclusive or contradictory evidence. In all cases, the use of behavioral research protocols and sufficiently powered designs will be needed for future studies to drive the science forward.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCybersecurity and cognitive science
EditorsAhmed A. Moustafa
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages40
ISBN (Electronic)9780323906968
ISBN (Print)9780323905701
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2022


  • Hacking
  • Cybersecurity
  • Cybercrime
  • Autism
  • Autistic traits
  • Systemizing


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