The 10 Best Hacking Videos

Say goodbye to the rest of your day. Here are the top 10 best videos about real hacking. We’ve already covered the absolute worst that hollywood has to offer, twice. Then, we did the best that hollywood could pull off. Now we’re enjoying the real thing. Feast your eyes on hacking as it actually happens. In this list are all kinds of hacking, from slapping things together out of scrap to lock picking. From creating computers in your garage to social engineering.

Most of these are even available, in full,  on youtube!

Here’s the list:

10. KGB, The Computer, and me.
The true story of someone noticing a hacker and tracking him down.

9. BBS: The Documentary
The history of the BBS system from its inception to its demise.

8. Unauthorized Access

Lock picking, dumpster diving, social engineering.

7. The Secret Life of Machines

Not only do they explain how it works, sometimes they do a hack to prove their point.

6. Mythbusters

every episode has the premise “what can we hack together to do this?”

5. Scrap-heap Challenge/ Junkyard Wars

Given a pile of junk, they have to create something specific, like a hovercraft, or racing bikes.

4. Triumph of The Nerds

The true story of how hackers came to rule the world with their technology

3. Secret History of Hacking

Detailed accounts of some of the most recognizable names in hacking.

2. Hacks

A look at how diverse hacker culture can be

1. Hackers are People Too

Mainly interviews from people at cons. A great way to see what is going on now in the culture.


Honestly, I don’t think the order really matters. Personally, I’d put Mythbusters and Scrap-heap Challenge closer to number one, my enthusiasm for those shows borders on unhealthy.  Someone who is more into security would put Unauthorized access at the top of the list. You get the point.

What we can all agree on, is that these are all great.


41 thoughts on “The 10 Best Hacking Videos

  1. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, Kevin Mitnick’s autobiographical book covers some awesome hacks he pulled off and talks about a lot of his social engineering. it’s not a video (yet), but totally worth checking out

    1. The Secret Life of Machines episodes are available to download, but “The Car” has a long section of bad video. Doesn’t matter where you download it, it’s a bad copy. :-( Why it’s bad is because the online ones were made from the DVD set which was made from tape transfers from the original 16mm film prints and whomever did the DVD transfer didn’t check their work. Something went worng with the digitization of “The Car”.

      There’s only two ways to fix it. Find a good home recorded tape of the episode and digitize it or buy the original film prints and have new digital transfers made direct from them for higher quality than the DVDs that were made.

      Crowdfunding could buy the films and pay to have them digitized and DVDs authored and replicated.

    1. The US version was so fake it was annoying to watch. Plus they’d gloss over how the interesting stuff was being built in order to cover the fake/forced drama between characters on the show.

      I didn’t catch the Australian version, maybe that one wasn’t ruined.

  2. Okay, so here I am, with a brand spankin new (to me) set of Medecos and lock picking is mentioned. Sweet! Bonus content! But the video mentioning picking is from ’93, as old as the MIT guide, long-looong before the venerable UL 437 Medeco line was considered pickable at all. Then the big ol’ boisterous Ollam is seen in the clip for the last video. Huzzah! Bonus topic relevant to me indeed.

    I have already learned two things. 1. This is a really good list. 2. Setting a sidebar with a headset on is really freaking hard.

  3. Bookmarked this to come back too later. These could prove useful in trying to convince a community to assist in creating a hacker space. Often not being an obstruction can be the best assistance. Fair to characterized KGB, The Computer, and me as cheesy, but but one has to give NOVA a break, they have only 60 minutes to tell the story, and most expect nova to include details a commercial screenplay would leave out

  4. as a fan of Frank Abagnale, it is a shame Catch Me If You Can did not make the list. if you can hear Frank interviewed it is always facinating. Fair set of examples of diferent types of hacks in the movie including hacking deposit slips, and some social engineering of course.

  5. There’s a fascinating (and quite long) interview with Neal Davis who was the behind the scenes expert at Scrapheap Challenge at where he talks about all the little behind the scenes fiddles that were done to make the programme work on TV. e.g. every show was actually filmed over three days, with day two reserved for two proper engineers to modify the built machines to make them far safer.

  6. Know anywhere to order or watch Hacks? I’ve heard about it before but could never find it. Would love to have it around to show to friends and family whom I know would be interested if they could just see we aren’t all malicious computer people.

        1. Thanks, I must have dug through countless pages of people using video game hacks just not to find it. Guess it didn’t help that I spell Christine wrong the whole time.

  7. So glad to see The Secret Life of Machines in the list. Wish I’d got in sooner and suggested In the Realm of the Hackers, a documentary about computer hacking in the 80’s, based on the book “Underground”. Mendax is (I believe) Julian Assange.

  8. too bad the top 10 does not includes the use of hacking in a fictional setting. While this is a wonderfull list of usefull and close to the real world list it is like saying you better not watch the Lion King, a random documentary on lions is better.

      1. Thanx, i guess I somehow missed that one… I only remeber the worst and still chuckle about the 2 person 1 keyboard hacking.

        There was just a new one that I encountered: ironman 3: Stark runs a speed test in a media van and hits adsl 1 speeds (somewhere near 8 mbit down/ 1 mbit up) and sais: “this is not going to cut it, go up and recalibrate the ISDN to get 20% more bandwith”
        the other guy gets on the roof on the van, filled with satelite dishes, plugs two cables and done.
        so much wrong:
        -DSL speeds through ISDN
        – ISDN through satelite
        – gaining 20% extra by connecting a plug

        1. ;-) Unfortunately, that sounds exactly the sort of thing that BT Broadband technical support would suggest doing! Along with such gems as “reprofiling the braz” and “resetting the SNR”.

          Several months ago (I’ve been fighting BT for nearly 5 months now, because they cocked up our broadband, cancelled it, we moved to another supplier, but BT seem unable to realise this, so every week we receive a NEW account and a NEW bill from BT) I phoned up to complain about the broadband speeds on the line. The (obviously foreign) guy at the other end proceeded to exclaim in dismay that the SNR was too high.

          Whereupon I spent the next ten minutes explaining that, if by SNR he means signal-to-noise ratio, then a HIGH SNR is obviously a GOOD thing. At which point he went and reset it, whatever the hell that is. Needless to say, it had no effect, like most of what BT does!

  9. I adored Scrapheap Challenge but looking back at it now with my older eyes it’s a shame at how, particularly in the later series, what the teams needed magically was present in the heap. If it wasn’t then you could bet that a few hours later they’d find it.

    It shouldn’t take away from what they achieved but nonetheless I don’t think it’s quite as hack-y as I remember it or want to remember it

    1. I remember getting a bit annoyed at exactly this! I remember there was one episode where they had to build a steam-powered car, and I was looking forward to them converting an air compressor or changing the valve timing on an internal combustion engine, something like that. But what should they “find” sitting in the “scrapheap” – a beautiful compound marine steam engine! And I think the other team also “found” a steam engine of similar quality.

      Let’s face it – to do some of the projects, you simply needed “plants”, since you were never going to find something like that in a scrapyard. Once you realise that a lot of it is staged (well, obviously it is – they always finish just ten seconds before the horn goes!) it takes a bit of the fun out, but they still achieved some great builds. I think my favourite was the trebuchet vs. catapult episode.

      1. You are right, there needed to be some amount of planting. I just guess when I was younger I was simply more oblivious to it.

        Personally my favourite was the international one where a team actually managed to build an aircraft (a bit like the wright flyer) that they managed to get up to a decent height. The opposition managed to do a powered hanglider/tricycle thing that got something like 15cm up XD

  10. Some honorable mentions:
    Freedom Downtime – about hackers more than about hacking.

    Prototype This – not as fun as mythbusters, but still had a lot of great hacks.

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