However, there are a lot more furries than excellent computer hackers in the world, so you would expect there to be relatively few people that are both furries and hackers.
Interestingly, reality doesn’t match these expectations: Furries are moderately over-represented in the technology industry, compared to the public at large, and information security is no exception to this trend.
One needs look no further than a casual glance at the DEFCON Furs events or the occasional furry-oriented SwiftOnSecurity shitpost (and everyone’s replies) to get a sense for how prevalent furries are in the information security industry.
This often leads folks to wonder, “Why are furries so prevalent in the security industry in particular?”
Why Is Infursec Even A Thing?
There are a lot of different forces that cause the demographic make-up of any industry. Some of the more notable forces are gatekeeping (which I’ve written about before), impostor syndrome, and burn-out.
Gatekeeping, Impostor Syndrome, and Burn-Out
Computer security is a challenging field that most people find difficult to learn and even harder to master. Even before intentional gatekeeping enters the mix, you already have a large number of people who say, “Fuck this,” and do something easier or more personally meaningful.
The difficulty of the subject is obviously directly linked to both the prevalence of Impostor Syndrome and burn-out in the security industry: Even when someone understands the subject well enough to work in security, they often feel like they’re secretly a charlatan or a fraud; that some grand cosmic mistake took place and they were given a job they’re not actually qualified for.
Most people, when faced with these feelings and beliefs, don’t cope well with them. Sometimes, junior security analysts will work themselves to the bone just to compensate for their perceived lack of qualifications. This is just one example of how one can experience burn-out in the security industry; many roads lead to this outcome.
And yet, the problem of impostor syndrome and burn-out is so much worse and more widespread than I can do justice in just a few short paragraphs. Many words have been written about this subject by many people who have been in the industry for far longer than myself. At this point, it’s a known problem with our industry and the culture surrounding it.
What’s This Got To Do With Furries?
The Furry Fandom, as I’ve noted before, is predominantly queer.
There are two direct consequences to this observation, and one is related to what I just discussed.
First, many of us grew up in less-than-ideal environments for queer people, which leads to the adoption of security fundamentals as a survival strategy.
Speaking from experience as a gay man, I grew up very aware of my own vulnerabilities and the risk factors in my life. This led me to become very interested in privacy–both online and on my private computing devices–which culminated in a deep interest in computer security and encryption. Many of my queer and furry friends have similar stories to share.
But more pertinent to the problems of the security industry, furries are generally more comfortable with the feelings of being an impostor. We pretty much have to be. To wit: Unless they’re also a therian/otherkin, most furries are very aware that they’re not actually whatever their fursona species is. We’re geeky humans.
It may sound like a trivial matter, but this modicum of comfort is something a lot of people don’t have.
The stronger you feel pressured to succeed, and the less you feel willing to ask questions for fear of seeming uninformed, the more you will struggle with these feelings.
Feeling free to play pretend, in earnest, without shame or judgment from one’s peers is incredibly liberating and beneficial for one’s mental health.
Additionally, furries are rarely found in isolation. We have a vibrant participatory online community that spans all seven continents.
We have conventions, local meetups, and a significant presence in virtual reality. For more on this, see the DEFCON Furs.
And, although it doesn’t prevent burn-out, having a robust support system of close friends, online friends, strangers with shared interests, and sometimes even romantic partners means that furries rarely suffer from the isolation and loneliness that exacerbate burn-out in information security professionals.
Finally, because there are so many furries in the technology industry in general, and the information security industry in particular, there’s a faux professional support network built into our community that helps newcomers overcome a lot of the usual security industry gatekeeping.
How Does This All Tie Together?
Furries (who are largely LGBTQIA+) have a tendency towards information security to cope with hostile environments. Additionally, we have a cultural defense mechanism against impostor syndrome and some of the causes of burn-out in the information security industry. The existence of infursec professionals also make gatekeeping less effective.
What this means is:
- Furries are more likely than average to pursue a security career
- Furries are mildly less susceptible to impostor syndrome and burn-out
- Furries are more likely to help other furries resist industry gatekeeping
These somewhat independent factors feed off each other and result in more furries joining and staying in the industry, and then in turn being available to help more of their friends join the industry.
The reason there are so many furries in the security industry is the combination of these three factors.
This is a good thing! Increased LGBTQIA+ representation in the security industry at large is a good foil for the largely heteronormative technology industry.