Hacking and Hollywood

If you have watched a few English movies, you would have seen the cliche-ing of Hackers and crack programmers as fat/un-sociable young men living with their moms.

Though this might still be true in the US (speculating), it is definitely not the case in the hacking-hotspots of the world at the moment – China and India. Hacking communities in both these countries are very efficient and they work as teams to bring down security barriers – breaking the American cliche of hackers who work solo.

In so many movies, there are hugely predictable scenes where the lead actor ( the usual all balls, no brain) asks the afore mentioned fat-hacker guy to “speak in English” explaining the normal tech-references to them. The lame-ass part of it is that the hackers don’t even type properly! They whizz their hands over the keys like in a daze – obviously not making anything resembling code!

Real hacking is basically watching the Terminal screen and typing commands. But, no. In hollywood, Hacking has to look like a video game. The person sitting in front of the computer furiously types code while the screen basically flies past firewalls – more like a screensaver is on! I guess the funniest movie of all has to be Angelina Jolie’s Hackers (1995)



I have to admit, though, that some movies have got the scenes right. Matrix Reloaded (2003) is the one where I first saw anything remotely resembling some real methods of hacking.

Trinity uses Nmap to break into the electricity grid of the city, which is possible I guess. She uses a script called ‘sshnuke’ which doesn’t exist but at least she’s not flying through a maze or just breaking into the alien mother ship using an un-connected Mac (Independence Day)

I think directors have wised up to the fact that the viewers are no longer dunces. Well, OK most viewers are still dunces. But the difference now is that the online alpha-citizens are not macho-males or cheerleaders. They’re people who can understand this sort of stuff. Their opinions matter a bit more.

In later movies like the Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Die Hard 4.0 (2007) they’ve used some better looking ‘hacking-screens’ – though the typing is still laughable!

Are there any funny tech references that you’ve seen in movies?

Just to make my position clear on this, I consider hacking to be unlawful and not a very nice thing to do. I am also a lousy coder. (Just clearing matters in case any Internet Security people are reading)

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5 thoughts on “Hacking and Hollywood

  1. Mr. Khalifa here had given me a copy of this movie, Hackers. Glad I never saw it. I remember the movie Swordfish also had a coder guy, but can’t really recall the scenes.

    You’re spot on about the fact that a majority of the viewers don’t know shit about all this, and most probably don’t care either. From the directors point of view, a GUI showing files getting copied is probably better than showing some dude doing an scp from the terminal. At least the laymen will get it.

    The IT crowd is a great parody on the divide between the techies and the non-techies. Watch it if you haven’t. Here’s a sample

  2. Oh goodness, don’t even bring Swordfish into the discussion.
    Hugh Jackman has to hack into a govt. system in 60 seconds while he has a gun pointed to his head and has a girl providing entertainment under the desk at the same time. The silly thing is that he succeeds 😛

    Is American govt. security that lousy? I think not…

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