Top 10 Hacking Failures in movies: part 2

After going through the original quick list we tossed together, people were chiming in like crazy. We felt another 10 might help satiate the desire to smirk at the silliness of tech portrayed in movies and TV. Gathering examples from your comments, we have compiled part 2.  While I would have loved to narrow this down to a specific item like incorrect lingo or screen grabs, I didn’t quite have enough specific scenes to do it yet.  Be sure to keep the comments coming and be specific, I haven’t seen many of these till someone points it out.

10. La Femme Nikita

In this screenshot, you can clearly see an IP, DNS server, and subnet mask. All are formatted incorrectly. While I understand using a fake or non-existent IP, surely the person who knew the terms also knew the format.

9.  The Net

[Sandra Bullock] and her maw-dawm get to fight against super powerful hackers. The viruses have fancy data melting effects too.

8. Unthinkable

yep, that is a spreadsheet with gibberish in it. They aren’t even trying. It is like some one just said “i dunno, just go do something computery”.

7. Numb3rs

This overly complex and drawn out scene explaining chat programs will surely make you laugh. It is ok that the hackers are plotting on a public server, they’re speaking l337 so no one can understand them.

6. CSI

“someone, get me a list of computer words STAT!”. Here’s your line.

5. Mastermind

Security is never a video game. Never. Ever.

4. The Core

The Character named [Rat] in this movie delivers a wonderfully cheesy speech about how he “speaks in ones and zeroes”, then he goes on to make a quick whistle to phreak someones cell phone to have long distance forever. While it was a pretty sweet nod to [Captain Crunch], the method of phreaking shown doesn’t change your cell phone plan.

3. Independence Day

I wanted to avoid this one because so many people have pointed it out, but when [Jeff Goldblum] hacks the mothership, well, it is funny. Apparently there’s some deleted scene that explains this all away with some line about how our current tech is derived from the alien ship that landed 50 years ago. So the aliens haven’t changed anything since then? Wait, are printers and print spooling an alien plot to drive us insane?

2. Hackers

In the scene where a TV station is being hacked, we have the usual goofy graphical hacking, but on top of that, we have a physical comedy to go along with it. The robotic arms in the TV station battle it out, grasping tapes from each other.

1. Skyfall

When you remove a shotgun shell from the gun, and pull out the “shot” and batting, you end up with basically just a pile of gunpowder. When you apply fire to this, you get a poof of fire, not a massive explosion. You need compression to have an explosion. These bombs won’t work. They will burn your house down though, so the makers of the movie can’t even say they were avoiding getting any copy cats hurt.

83 thoughts on “Top 10 Hacking Failures in movies: part 2

  1. The charlies angels movie have the best one, copying data (hacking) from a PDA, the screen shows the notepad white the word “downloading” XD

  2. Re: 8

    I’d agree with you if I hadn’t seen the abominations that people use Excel for. Watched an investment bank do risk analysis for billions of dollars with Excel for 2 years. You haven’t known pain until you’ve had to debug why a 20 hour Excel macro failed 18 hours into the job, with no way to run the macro without being on the prod log channel (IRC), prod reporting infrastructure (FTP and REST services), and with a macro that mutates the spreadsheet with realtime data and no copy of the initial state, nor intermediate state.

    Defusing a bomb with a spreadsheet would be easier, and I’m pretty sure I could come up with a scenario where it’s justified.

  3. I haven’t read through all of the comments, but one of my favorites is Superman III where Richard Pryor is setting up a salami slicing routine on the company’s payroll systems…. where he literally types “Override all security” and it simply lets him in…

    1. because somehow, the riaa and mpaa thinks you you wont buy their movie, because you watched a 5 second clip of it.
      Thats why a lot of utub people mirror any sort of copyrighted content.

      1. ok, that’s what I assumed (that it was for copyright). But what does mirroring it do? Dissuade you from watching it?

          1. That software can’t be that good!
            This video I cut together was flagged for “third party content”
            If you can figure out what that content actually is, I’d love to know!

          2. @cyberteque
            It probably thinks the noise from 8:30 onwards is from somebody’s dubstep track.

  4. Just a small correction, In the movie Hackers – he isn’t “battling” the security guy – he’s “battling” Angelina Jolie’s character Acid Burn for control over the tapes.

  5. No 1 should be this video. The sample videos are 10% of the screen. Whats the point? We don’t need to see you. We want to see the videos, not your “elaborate hacker space”

  6. A good list.

    I can’t believe some of the 90s-era little science, BIG Fiction cult-classics aren’t in here.
    Johnny Mnemonic, Virtuosity, etc.

          1. Your not the only one who has this problem. It seems to be an industry standard that when someone is talking, the background music volume always equals or exceeds the volume of the voice track which contains the actual message that people want to hear.

            If you are not using separate tracks for your background music and your voice start doing so. Then begin lowering the volume the background music track starting with at least 2 decibels below your voice track. Continue decreasing your background music track’s volume until your voice track becomes easy to hear.

            Every time I hear a song I can’t understand the words to because the accompaniment muffles the vocals I think: Idiot sound engineer!

            Many amateurs and pros will disagree with my stance, but the message in the song or video is the most important part of any production. If the audience cannot follow the message because some other media is muffling the speakers or singer’s voice, then you are doing a disservice to your audience. It’s no different than trying to follow the dialog of a movie when the sound or single cuts out at the most interesting spot. It just can’t be done.

            But then again, if you are sending some kind of nefarious message along with your video or song, then muffling the voice can be logically explained as to have a cypher at the other end.

            Hmm? So what’s you hidden coded message? Awe come on, we won’t tell just post it right here so we can all read it.

          2. No worries. As Scott pointed out, even the pros screw it up. I have a “remastered” VHS of a musical that was done so badly it’s impossible to hear the actors when the music is playing. Kinda hard to tell what’s happening in the story when you can’t hear anything. In comparison, yours is much easier to listen to.

  7. The Skyfall Fail was also similarly used in Burn Notice Season 2 Episode 16. Sam and Michael’s mom rig up something very similar.

    1. Although in that case it was probably a bit more realistic. He had more material, and the house didn’t really explode, but only the windows. The main effect, if I remember it correctly, was burning it down.

      1. IIRC, the whole point of that bit in Burn Notice was that it wan’t anything but a flashbang. Also, coffee creamer (again, Burn Notice) will totally make a decent fireball.

  8. I think the worst hacking scene is in the Movie Jonny Mnemonic by William Gibson.
    That movie a long technical joke. First of all, it tells us, that u can use some magical device which dubbles the cappacity of a silicon storage device. Not by compressing the data while saving, no you have to use it and somehow it enlarge the memory. Sounds creazy doesn’t it?
    In the middle it has some visuel impressiv scenes of a 3D internet which might by possible somehow. Of corse some computer viruses which look like Dragons or other creepy animals.
    But the best part, even in this movie, is the end, where Ice-T explanes that Jhones the military pimped dolphin hack into submarine computers an human brians by using ultrasonic waves – wtf!?!

    i read the book, but i find it hart to belive that it is that bad in technical matters(?).

        1. Nice.
          Actually tech wise the movie wasn’t that different then the short story, except for the storage size duplicator. Considering the short story was written in the early eighties, when tech was supposed to be this amazing radical thing, and this is William Gibson we’re talking about, “the man who coined the term cyberspace”, and it’s set 20+ years from our current time, stuff changes. Show a Windows8 interface to a DOS 3.0 user in a movie, I bet he calls bullshit also.

          1. To top it off Gibson himself knew practically nothing about technology when he basically created the cyberpunk genre, He literally took words he heard and came up with what he thought they should mean.

            “I heard about “virus program” from an ex-WAC computer operator who had worked in the Pentagon. She was talking one night about guys who came in every day and wiped the boards of all the video games people had built into them, and how some people were building these little glich-things that tried to evade the official wipers- things that would hide and then pop out and say, “Screw you!” before vanishing into the framework of logic. (Listening to me trying to explain this, it immediately becomes apparent that I have no grasp of how computers really work- it’s been a contact high for me.) Anyway, it wasn’t until after the book came out that I met people who knew what a virus program actually was.” –William Gibson http://project.cyberpunk.ru/idb/gibson_interview.html

          2. I may forgive the book (haven’t read it), but the movie was just bad camp. It was worse than Tron and produced a more than a decade later. Pointing out that it was written by William Gibson a decade earlier is like pointing out that Paycheck, Total Recall, The Minority Report, or The Adjustment Bureau were written by Phillip K. Dick decades before Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were even born. Hardly makes any of them Blade Runner.

  9. Ugh don’t require ads on youtube :( It makes it so I can’t watch it on my machine without Flash Player. (the first part I can’t watch, but this one I could)

      1. I don’t think the complaint was about your usage of advertising to generate revenue so much as a specific subset of that. Hacakaday has existed a LONG time without youtube videos at all, let alone youtube ads….

      2. “ads pay for hackaday to exist.”
        That is fantastic, as long as I’m not confronted with them ( which I am not ). Win win situation?

  10. It’s not the compression of the barrel makes it go bang. It’s the compression of the chamber.

    I’ve yer gonna make fun of someone….

  11. I must say, I cannot understand why people somehow gather pride from their very, very common ability to see flaws in things. “Look at these things that are wrong!” Good for you, man. You can see things all of us see.

  12. We in NZ are likely to be way behind the 8 ball but last nights Bones really did get up my nose. Some reet hacker (the main bad guy) had taken control of a drone and was going to crash it in to a school killing some kinds. He also was throwing a pile of data at another screen that was stripping out all the funds from Hodgins bank accounts leaving him penniless. He was not able to interrupt the transfers because if he did they would loose connectivity to the UAV.

    Now I have no issues with the control or connection to the UAV or that it was hijacked but as for the bank transfers… I am pretty sure if a bank account is hacked and sizable chunks of money has dumped form one place to another there will be a trace and the transfer could be reversed. even if that was not possible then why would you not pick up a phone and tell the bank to terminate that transfer.

    Lets not get me started on the fact this ubereet haxor removed every trace of himself from every computer world wide and picked up a new identity.

    1. Dunno about the UAV angle, but large chunks of money do go missing.

      Every trick from the basic, move it through a load of banks quickly and have someone waiting in the last one with a chequebook and a suitcase, where they know where the money disappeared, but not where it ended up, to the various Bank-assisted money laundering schemes which have been uncovered over the last couple of decades has been tried, and with some success.

      Also, it’s worth remembering that a lot of security isn’t all that. Check out the theft of Cellini’s Saliera from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Austria, thought to be one of the most impregnable buildings of it’s type at the time.

      To cut a long story short, it was stolen by a guy who’d taken a liking to it and, after an evening spent drinking beer and whisky, walked around to the museum, shinned up the scaffolding, broke a window to get in (setting off an alarm which the guards ignored), broke the case the Saliera was in, then shinned down the scaffolding and took it home with him. Thus began the hunt for what was imagined to be the most clever art thief that Europe had ever seen. Paradoxically, had he not just been some drunk who fancied a bit of larceny on the way home, it probably wouldn’t have taken them four years to catch him. My favorite bit was where they didn’t even turn on the lights in the room he was robbing and the alarm had been triggered – Yes, the security cameras were daylight only…

  13. “If you want your system to be secure, don’t make your security system a game”

    Microsoft Picture Password.

  14. How about the horrible movie “Firewall” with Harrison Ford,
    If I remember correctly, his family is held hostage, and he has to steal some infomation from the company or bank where he works. But he can’t bypass the firewall, so he hacks together a “device” using parts of a scanner and combines it with a PDA or mobilephone to scan the info directly from screens inside the server room.

  15. The new Devil may Cry game does it kinda right: theres your brother on a computer “Hacking” some doors open for you: His screen shows some console windows open. cant see the text, but at least its somehow related to reality.

    1. Why so? There have been prototypes of display screens that have embedded cameras – That is cameras that have their sensor elements diffused across a portion of the screen, rather than a discrete and presumably tiny camera stuck in the middle somewhere. Reading fingerprints seems like a fairly obvious development of that.

      If nothing else it’ll make the next remake of 1984 a little more believable :)

  16. I think the problem with Bollocks Science is that it’s a very narrow genre. Whereas the outer reaches of MiB can be dismissed as artistic licence, that doesn’t explain why all the alien weapons are operable by a Mk. 1 human hand, or why they’re all brilliantly polished chrome. Doesn’t camouflage work on other planets? We probably see more bollocks science in Police dramas (a lot of the bollocks being that much of this stuff is even computerised in the first place – It’s not long that the UK Police had to decide between buying FAX machines or trousers, FFS.

    Perhaps a new category should be created that awards points for the most end-to-end bullshit in a film ostensibly playing it straight, in which case can I put in a mention for “Wargames”? Not only was it triple-distilled Bollocks Science all the way though, but it also had a British character playing an enigmatic genius, plagued by serious mental health issues – Another essential element in Bollocks Science, it seems.

    1. Sandra Bullock hasn’t been in THAT many science movies! And I don’t recall seeing her at all in War Games! B^)

  17. “I stopped taking notes on my Palm Pilot and started playing the little chess game.” — Roger Ebert about Masterminds.

  18. on tonight’s episode of “Person Of Interest” the guy takes apart a 9mm round and uses the “black powder” to dust for finger prints!!
    I nearly choked on my coffee!

  19. Most likely on July 4th. I’ll sit down with some food & suds to watch independence day. After the premise that human kind could be victorious in an epic battle with an more technology advanced foe, the Goldblum character hacking into the alien computer is really minor. While I may say a scene in video is nuts, it’s not anything to think twice about. However I will watch episode 3 if there is one.

  20. RE: “4. The Core … quick whistle to phreak someones cell phone”.
    I can whistle 300 baud modem carrier frequency. It’ll keep the host from disconnecting as long as I can keep going. If you can still find one. Long nights in the computer labs of old.

  21. I got a kick out of a Numb3rs episode when they referred to “Furrier Analysis”. Apparently it’s what you use after you’ve used Fuzzy Logic.

  22. what about tron legacy? haha. opening the door at encom with his phone, the whole thing about being inside of circuit, ya know? :P

    good movie :)

  23. As far as I know, the most important part for an explosion is not actually compression, but confinement. It is not necessary that the gunpowder is in a tightly sealed container. See this demonstration: http://youtu.be/rmtK2BgmGCw?t=38m [starts at 38:00 and takes a bit more than 2 minutes]. I know that was a show for kids, but the chemistry is still valid. The principle is explained in the video, starting a few minutes before that. The basic point is: because the hot reaction products can not immediately escape, they increase pressure and, more importantly, temperature, which accelerates the reaction (that’s basic chemistry). I havn’t actually watched Skyfall, so I don’t know how big the explosion in the movie is. Based on the information in the demonstration, you may judge for yourselfes. But an explosion without a tight container is according to that source certainly possible.

  24. I think “Hackers” should actually be called “Demosceners”. Or that the writers of the script had gone to Assembly, wanted to make a film about it, but they didn’t know exactly wtf was that.

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