In context: Finding good stock photos for cybersecurity articles is sometimes not easy. Often we are forced to use an image that doesn't really fit with the story, or is so generic it can cover a multitude of different topics. The Hewlett Foundation, in a partnership with OpenIDEO are hoping to change that.

Back in August, we reported on an art contest held by OpenIDEO and the Hewlett Foundation, geared to make cybersecurity stock imagery both more interesting and less cliché. Artists had until September 23 to get their ideas in for the chance at five $7,000 cash prizes.

The Hewlett Foundation announced on Friday that the five winners had been selected from a pool of international entries — two were from the US.

  • Abraham Peña, Doral, FL, USA
  • Afsal CMK, Karnataka, India
  • Claudio Rousselon, Cancun, Mexico
  • Ivana Troselj, Canberra, Australia
  • Mariah Jochai, Portland, OR, USA

Each winner will be receiving $7,000, and their designs will be available for use through the Creative Commons license. Additionally, 23 semi-finalists will get $500 and have their creations added to the open-licensed portfolio as well.

“The challenges we face today online keeping networks and devices secure are far too complex to be illustrated by a shadowy figure in a hoodie hunched over a laptop,” said Hewlett Foundation’s Eli Sugarman. “Sophisticated organizations are attacking the security of the internet, and we believe the images produced by the participating artists will help increase understanding of these issues for policymakers and the broader public alike.”

TechSpot often uses stock imagery for cybersecurity pieces, and the selection is admittedly very slim. Usually, choices fall into very generic yet similar categories such as the aforementioned hooded figure, Matrix-like lettering, some sort of padlock against a tech-ish backdrop, or a mix of all of the above. All are very worn out and overused and don’t usually convey a meaningful message to the reader.

From the looks of the winning entries, the artists put much thought into their designs. The winning artists created work exploring cybersecurity challenges such as phishing, encryption, the importance of multi-party cyber alliances and digital privacy. They show a refreshing change of pace from the usual cyber-imagery that we are forced to use. I, personally, look forward to seeing the rest of the portfolio and using some of these designs in upcoming articles.

All of the winning work can be found on OpenIDEO's CyberVisuals Challenge page.

Masthead image: Mariah Jochai