Top 5 Ridiculous Hacking Scenes in Movies

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Bozidar Spirovski


Like any technology-fed phenomenon with increasing public exposure, hacking is often ill-conceived and exaggerated in movie scenes.

The following are five of the most implausible and amusing scenes that have resulted from this approach to hacker depiction in movies.

Mission: Impossible

Ving Rhames plays expert computer hacker Luther Stickell in the Mission: Impossible movies. One of the most ridiculous scenes in this series comes in the first film, where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) hangs upside down from the ceiling and hacks into the CIA’s system by executing Luther’s directions (given to him via earpiece).

It’s also just a little too simple when Luther hacks into the CIA Headquarters’ computer-controlled electrical system to trigger the fire alarm on a specific floor. As it turns out, all you have to do is type “ACTIVATE ALARM” and you can manipulate the CIA’s emergency alert system according to your every whim. Oh, and you can do all of this while sitting in a fire truck outside the building.


What we can learn from this movie is that all backdoor passwords can be easily guessed if there’s an immediate family member who’s tragically died. Stephen Falken, an artificial intelligence researcher, has created a backdoor with password “Joshua” (the name of Falken’s dead son), which is hacked by a high school student and used to infiltrate the system of War Operation Plan Response (WOPR). And the rest is history - you never know whether you’re playing a game or destroying a country.

Jurassic Park

Lex is just proof that any middle school girl should know Unix. And that it’s not operated by command line, but by graphics. Sure. We can make these well-informed assumptions by watching the Jurassic Park scene in which a velociraptor tries to get into the building and eat everyone, but Lex decides that she can “hack” the security system and lock the doors.

This is irrelevant, since velociraptors can break glass, but let’s just go with it.
Lex takes one look at a graphical interface and announces, “Hey, it’s a Unix system! I know this!” She runs a program called “3D File System Navigator” and saves the day, at least for the next few seconds.

Independence Day

Obviously, there’s more dubious material in this movie than the hacking scene. But it’s still pretty laughable. Even if you accept the premise that aliens have power source technology that’s been impossible for humans to replicate, the hacker is way beyond executing a plausible command.

David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) uses his trusty Mac to write a virus that infects and destroys the entire alien defense system. Unless the aliens used Unix, the remotest possibility that a human-written virus could affect their superior system is completely without substance. It appears that we’ve seriously underestimated the power of an Apple a day.


The hacker in this movie is played by Hugh Jackman and is an insult to any self-respecting programmer who doesn’t wear a dirty T-shirt every day. Both hacking scenes make the process seem far too easy and use bogus terms like “worms” and “hydras” that are essentially nonsensical.

Successful hacks are done by “visualizing code” and continuing to type despite warnings of “Access Denied.” The hacker does his thing while drinking wine, dancing obnoxiously in his chair, and having a gun pressed against his head. It doesn’t get much more ridiculous than that.

This is a guest post by Alexis Bonari. She is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is a passionate blogger on the topic of education and free college scholarships. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Cross-posted from ShortInfosec

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Post Rating I Like this!
Jamie Adams Those movies do make me laugh. Especially, when family and friends try to compare the work I do to that "garbage". Thanks for the laughs!
Jamie Adams Let's not forget the ridiculous movie "Hackers" -- the only thing that made it bearable for me was Angelina Jolie even though she had a boy's haircut.
Mark Culmer I don't believe you, I think this is how its really done and you are protecting the way you work;-)
John Savage let's not forget the "lone gunmen" on the X-files. They could hack into any double super secret government facility whilst hanging from wires inside the complex.I wonder who let them in?
John Savage Yeah Michael and if they couldn't hack it they'd just fabricate some hardware to do it.
Bryan Miller I did like the movie "Sneakers"....a little hacking, some social engineering, physical security....overall an enjoyable movie to me.
Bill Wildprett, CISSP, CISA While the part about easily-guessable backdoor passwords in 'WarGames' was somewhat lame, the movie does have redeeming hacking values:

1. It came before the others and exposed the audience to war-dialing and what hacking involved as a mindset.
2. It showed social-engineering skills, e.g., when Matthew Broderick's character knows the password for the school's computer is on a list on a slide-out drawer outside the Principal's office.
3. Matthew B. shows some tech skills when he uses the tape player and some alligator clips to record keytones and play them back to escape from the electronically-locked dispensary room.

So, yes, one piece that looks unlikely now, but nowhere near the Epic FAIL of the other movies!
Derrick Buxton You might be surprised how often those backdoor (or front end)passwords are something so simple. IMO, most of these scenes while a little unrealistic, are not "ridiculously hilarious". It is Hollywood, you have to make it interesting for the masses. Not much of that starting at a command line.

And you forgot the most important one. A hot chick dreaming about having sex with a hacker...
Daniel Sedlacek Someone should cut all those scenes to short clips on YouTube so that we can use them in conversation.
Mark Evertz haahaah. this post and the comments killed me. As with any list ever conceived, there's always glaring omissions -- or was there?!!?!? Am I to take from this that Sandra Bullock's The Net was plausible and technically accurate? If so, you've officially scared the hell out of me. Great topic. Who's up for hammering out a realistic movie script with me? Technical advisor? Pay would suck in the beginning, but I see a void!
Danny Ha I think those implausible and amusing scenes are good enough to arouse the public awareness of information security particular the candidates of taking CISSP and security posts. There are many other scenes from many movies that worth to watch. We could share one by one here. ~ Danny Ha, Hong Kong.

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