If there is one thing we have all been told by movies, it’s that hacking is cool. Good looking people in murky rooms hammer away at their keyboards, teeth gritted, attempting to force their way through virtual barriers. It’s a nail biting affair, apparently, so much so that entire movies have been based around the notion.
But, of course, in the real world hacking couldn’t be less interesting. When we hear about real security breaches in major corporations, it is mostly a due to an unsuspecting victim being lured into sharing personal information, after which that information is used to gain access to a system. The type of hacking seen in movies, which generally requires multiple people, all with degrees in coding, is so rare as to be almost non-existent. It also takes an insanely tedious amount of time. Good luck slamming your hands on your keyboard and creating a complicated hack in 10 seconds flat.
But this doesn’t stop movies from outright fibbing when it comes to portraying hacking.
Back in 1995, the internet was still a pretty new concept. It was not yet even possible to play blackjack for real money in Australia, or almost anywhere in the world, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from jumping on the idea. Hackers, by modern standards, is a hilariously inaccurate portrayal of what it means to force access into a computer. Screens show virtual 3D towers being navigated, which is apparently achieved by fingers clattering away at keyboards.
Hack the planet, right guys? Totally.
Yes, portrayals of hacking have improved since then, but not really by that much.
Just one year later came Independence Day. The movie obviously isn’t exactly claiming to be about hacking, but still bases its climax entirely around a virus being planted on an extra-terrestrial operating system. Because, of course, the aliens were using Windows 95, right?
The notion that an earth virus would work on completely unknown alien technology is so silly that you can’t help but laugh. The term clueless doesn’t even begin to sum up how knowledgeable the scriptwriters were about how a virus actually functions.
Live Free Or Die Hard/ Die Hard 4.0
You thought we were just going to pick on old movies?
Hackers and Independence Day can be forgiven, since the Internet was still in its early stages. But Live Free Or Die Hard, also known as Die Hard 4.0, came along in 2007. The writers really should have known better.
The plot of the film involves an elite group of hackers gaining access to the “American infrastructure,” which allows them to cause all sorts of chaos. Including redirecting gas to cause explosions, interfering with traffic lights, and, lo and behold, redirecting fighter pilots to new targets.
Of course this is realistic. When traffic lights were mapped out, the designers thought; hey, we should link this system directly to military targeting, right? Just to be safe. That won’t cause any problems we can foresee.