Cybersecurity on the screen

Here are some movies and TV shows about cybersecurity

1. Furious 7 (2015)

Rated PG-13

In Furious 7, there is a technology called “God’s Eye”. It uses every camera and microphone in the world with facial and voice recognition to find and track down people. This is not possible. Cell phones are not recording and uploading images, video, or audio 24/7. Even if it was, it is not going to one direct server or database to be queried. Most surveillance cameras do not record or stream a resolution high enough for facial recognition technology. A personal laptop does not have the hardware requirement to compute such algorithms so quick that its practically instantaneous. It could be possible, but in today’s world, it is simply not.

2. Unfriended (2014)

Rated R

A group of friends use Skype to have a video chat. A hacker, presumably, their dead friend that they embarrassed and cyber-bullied to commit suicide, joins their chat and uses supernatural forces to kill them all in her own twisted way. In doing so, she uses her hacking methods to make things even with each one of them by spilling their dark secrets before actually killing them. Also, one of the victims is a computer whiz and tries to use his own computer/cybersecurity skills to prevent the hacker from doing their dirty work.

3. Batman: The Dark Knight (2008)

Rated PG-13

In Batman’s final attempt to apprehend the Joker, he uses a new technology developed by Wayne Enterprises to locate the Joker. Its cell phone sonar. Pretty much, a noise is emitted from the speakers of all phones, and the mic listens to voices and the noises and reports it back to a computer/server. The server can use voice recognition to find the Joker and use the noises to map out the geographic location he is in. Obviously, not possible. That technology is beyond us at the moment. Also, hacking every cell phone in an area to get data sent from it is not plausible.

4. Eagle Eye (2008)

Rated PG-13

The Department of Defense has a top secret intelligence gathering supercomputer called the Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst, dubbed ARIIA. This computer has the ability to speak and hack its way through anything and everything. Shia LaBouf plays Jerry Shaw, whose brother, named Ethan Shaw, was an officer in the U.S. Air Force and monitored ARIIA at the Pentagon. Essentially, ARIIA believes that the executive branch of the government needs to be removed, and a new regime needs to be brought in because the executive branch is responsible for many innocent deaths. It uses the Declaration of Independence and claims it is acting on behalf of “We The People”. It calls Jerry Shaw, and another woman, Rachel Holloman, and forces them to go on an adventure of dangerous stunts and objectives. Jerry and Rachel are completely unaware that ARIIA is actually a computer and believe it’s a cyber-terrorist woman forcing them to do her dirty work. ARIIA uses its abilities to hack into TVs to broadcast messages, call phones to talk with them, and use every camera in the world from surveillance to phones to track their moves and everyone else’s. ARIIA is also able to predict what will happen and plan accordingly.

5. Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Rated PG-13

A cyber-terrorism team lead by antagonist Thomas Gabriel attack government and commercial computers across the U.S. Their intentions are to start a “fire sale”, where they target their attack on the nation’s reliance on computer controls. “Everything must go”. They take control of energy resources, communication networks, and even the stock market. They broadcast a threatening message across the nation and turn off electricity for most of the East Coast and Canada. The protagonist, John McClane, assisted by Matt Farrell and his buddy “Warlock” discover that Thomas Gabriel used to work for the Department of Defense and NSA. He tried to show them security vulnerabilities in the country’s network infrastructure but they did not heed his advice, so he went rogue and tries to steal data at a master Social Security Administration building. Matt Farrell is able to foil Thomas Gabriel’s attempt using encryption. The rest of the story doesn’t have to do much with hacking, but it ends with John McClane rescuing his kidnapped daughter from Thomas, who used his team’s hacking skills to locate her.

6. The Matrix (1999)

Rated R

Computer programmers and cyber-attackers realize that they live in a simulated reality called “The Matrix” which was created by machines to subdue the human population while their bodies are used as energy source. The protagonist, Neo, joins rebel human fighter who enter the Matrix to rescue enslaved humans. While attempting to do so, they encounter Agents, which are computer programs designed to destroy any threats to the system. Since they are in a simulated reality, they are able to defy physical laws and grant themselves superhero-like abilities such as flying and increased strength. They can slow down time to dodge bullets and increase their fighting abilities.

7. WarGames (1983)

Rated PG-13

This movie is said to be pretty accurate on its representation of hacking. The biggest inaccuracy is the military artificial intelligence. Aside from that, the rest of the cyber-attacks are accurate. He gets the password to changes his school grades because his teacher had it written down. This is actually a very common mistake people make. He researched the man who had the credentials to the military AI and was able to figure out his credentials. The accuracy is in getting their username, then doing enough research to figure out the answers to the password recovery security questions. Once that’s done, the password can be reset.

8. Mr. Robot [TV Series] (2015)

Rated TV-MA

According to a variety of sources online, Mr. Robot is a very accurate depiction of real world hacking. The show’s producers claim that they do not want to fake any of the cybersecurity hacks. They want it all to be real, even when they show code on the screen, its real and plausible. They do not want any cybersecurity or computer savvy people to ever roll their eyes at the screen because the hacking they are showing is not realistic. Apparently, they’re so dedicated that they are willing to sacrifice some of the story to make sure the accuracy is legitimate. The only thing thus far that they admit to not being accurate is the time it takes for certain hacks to be done. Some hacks should have taken hours to finish executing, but for the sake of time in the show, they cannot always show that.

The idea in the show, however, is that the cyber-attackers want to erase all the financial information in the banking system, delete it, and topple capitalism. This is not entirely plausible. This would mean that all the information is centralized, and it’s not. You could take out Lehman Brothers, and yes, it would be pretty terrible like in 2008, but other banks will still function. There are also back up files. The bad guys attempt to get into banking data often, and if they do, they are usually quickly detected, and ejected. The newly found hole is patched and an attacker would have to find a new exploit and start all over.

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9. CSI: Cyber (2015) [TV Series]

Rated TV-14

CSI: Cyber has a very inaccurate representation of cybersecurity and the abilities hackers have. The show gives the impression that hackers can hack technology to kill people. For example, hacking an electronic device, like a printer, and making it catch on fire. Or an amusement park ride, and making it into a death machine. Just completely unrealistic. Anything electronic in this show can apparently be hacked and controlled. A simple Google search on the accuracy of this show brings up many experts in the field going absolutely ballistic over its inaccuracies. You cannot expand terrible images and get spectacular resolution. It doesn’t work that way.