As with bad sex, most bad hacking scenes in movies and television involve someone needing to announce, “I’m in!” Since not long after people started connecting computers to other computers, Hollywood has been depicting fictional people attempting to use those connections for nefarious means. Naturally, Hollywood has also spent a lot of its time getting those depictions wrong. In the above clip from Wired, security researcher Samy Kamkar assesses a number of famous hacking scenes from TV and film to see just how off they are.
Probably the biggest criticism Kamkar has across the board is that a lot of hacking scenes tend to make use of outlandish 3D visual designs, when almost all real hacking tends to involve looking at text-based UNIX terminals or code compilers. Kamkar also notes that a lot of “hacking” scenes don’t involve any hacking at all, since they’re actually just people uploading virus software directly onto systems that don’t have any security measures whatsoever.
It’s not all bad, however. Unsurprisingly, the hacking in Mr. Robot gets the nod from Kamkar as being true-to-life. Perhaps more surprisingly, scenes from 1995's dueling blackhat films Hackers and The Net also both do well per Kamkar. And while audiences and critics weren’t fans of the 2008 Diane Lane techno-thriller Untraceable, Kamkar gives it kudos for its depiction of hacking.
In fact, overall Hollywood doesn’t do quite as terrible a job as one might expect. Even the productions that take creative liberties with visual design tend to do so in the service of hacking plots that aren’t complete gibberish. Well, except for the scene where a Criminal Minds character says of a female hacker, “Her GUI is mind-blowing.” That sucks real bad.
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