Nowadays, TV shows or movies insist on being hip and cool by throwing in a few tech plot points into the mix. However, the thing about Hollywood is that the Rule of Cool must always overwrite reality.
Because by a Hollywood executive’s reasoning, if it doesn’t look cool on screen, then it won’t sell tickets. So even if it is technically wrong, it must look like it’s printing money. Just ask Disney about that lemming incident.
When it comes to computers, one gets the impression that Hollywood writers don’t know what they are talking about. Every time a character even approaches a computer or anything tech-related, chances are they’ll get something about it wrong.
This is even more evident in the computer crime that is hacking. Hollywood just doesn’t seem to get it. Here are 10 of the more comical examples where they got hacking very wrong.
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1. NCIS: Two Hands Too Many
You don’t have to be that computer literate to know why this scene is full of fail. Even those who are only accustomed to writing on typewriters will know that 2 people operating on the same keyboard doesn’t make a lick of sense. Not to mention the number of pop-ups that keep appearing on screen. It’s a wonder they can concentrate at all staring at that screen while flaying on that keyboard.
2. Unthinkable: Excel-lent Disposal Skills
So a bomb is about to explode at any moment. And a computer hacker is needed to disarm the bomb. So what does the hacker use to do the trick? Why typing random characters into Microsoft Excel of course! So in addition to Excel being the tool of an accountant, it is now a bomb disposal device. See kids? This is why you should install portable Excel on your thumb drive.
3. Hackers: It’s Not How Any Of This Works
Remember during the ’90s when computer technology was starting to break into the mainstream? Computers were seen as this mythical contraption that can do anything and hackers were mysterious, anti-social techno wizards that can bring down the power grid with a few keystrokes.
The movie aptly called Hackers played those tropes in full force and even tops it off with 3D graphics that make hacking look like a video game. Heck, not even with the hacking, the entire file system is in 3D. Imagine how inefficient their entire organization is just trying to find a word document in that thing.
4. Jurassic Park: Because Clicking Takes Skill
Saying “It’s Unix!” is like saying “It’s Windows!” or “It’s a Mac!”. And saying that you can use it is like saying you can use a normal, average computer. Case in point, OS X is actually Unix-based. As a side note, some people say that the 3D UI is incredibly unrealistic and a case of Hollywood not knowing computers (as usual).
However, it actually is a real, experimental file system, similar to the idea shown in Hackers. Obviously, it didn’t catch on but it’s a nice touch at attempted realism for those in the know.
5. Masterminds: Hacking Is A Game Now
Another movie that portrayed hacking as some sort of video game. It’s even worse than Hackers because it actually is a video game. The entire GUI is some sort of ‘Dungeon and Dragons’ video game, telling us the audience that the target corporation spent way too much of their budget for this. They then give the hacker 2 minutes to ‘hack’ them instead of just kicking them out.
They even tell him that he’s being tracked instead of, you know, not telling him. And when he does get in, he gets to download all the files willy nilly. The cheesy rock music doesn’t help either.
6. Firewall: Too Distant To Connect
This is a case where they got it so close to being right but failed in the nitty-gritty details. The “10,000 songs, 10,000 account codes” bit is correct as the iPod is simply a storage device but the way he handled it is completely wrong.
For one thing, you can’t just plug a fax scanner head to an iPod and expect it to recognize it. It’s like plugging your iPod into a 20-year-old telephone and expecting it to record phone calls. It just doesn’t work like that. If this were to really work, he had to connect the head to something that can interpret the data and then load it to the iPod.
7. Numb3rs: Giving IRC Far Too Much Credit
Where do you think hackers would go if they don’t want to be caught? Why IRC of course! Ugh. For those who don’t know, IRC stands for Internet Chat Relay and is mostly a really simple chat protocol. Let’s break this down.
First, the drug boat analogy is completely meaningless. Just some 3D graphics and pointless babble to make it sound harder than it really is. Second, IRC is used by millions of average people worldwide. Not exactly a secret hacker den, is it? Next, creating an alert to find a particular username?
Better hope I don’t change it or that a thousand other people are using it. Finally, “I speak L33T”. S0 d0 1, 1t’5 n0t th4t h4rd.
8. CSI:NY: Virtual Chase Gone South
Spoiler alert: I am going to shamelessly rip apart CSI: NY for how they portray computers on the show. The first one is the infamous ‘Second Life’ chase scene.
If the suspect had any amount of sense, he would have just logged out instead of pointlessly running around. And running to catch the guy who is made up of 1’s and 0’s. Ridiculous. And pinging only tells you that the person is online.
9. CSI:NY : Hack Via Layout Codes
Using a hack to gain an advantage in a video game is nothing new. I’m sure most gamers have used cheat devices at one time or another. They usually involve cheat codes, cheat programs or cheat devices (GameShark4Life). But it takes a special kind of idiot/genius to to use HTML layout codes to hack a multiplayer session of ‘Gears Of War‘.
If this was a browser-based game, it would be somewhat understandable but this is like telling a French guy to give up all his money by showing him a contract in English.
10. CSI:NY: Visual Basic To Track IP
There was a Reddit post from someone that claimed to be a writer for TV shows such as CSI and Numb3rs. He says that they intentionally put this kind of technobabble as a sort of in-joke among TV show writers, to see who can get the worst line on TV.
And after watching this scene, I’m inclined to believe him. Why bother creating a “Graphical User Interface”, on Visual Basic no less, just to get an IP address? Just open up a command prompt. Even Uncle Google can do that if you ask him.