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.
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.
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.
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