We're not telling you a secret: Hollywood doesn't get hacking right. While the process of hacking into another computer system has been the subject of countless plots and side plots over the past few decades, the results have been less than realistic.
And we get it: it's difficult to portray the process of running through strings and numbers, or typing in code in a way that would visually appeal to mass audiences. Still, all the misfires from the entertainment industry definitely make us appreciate the few times that IT lovers actually portrays hacking accurately. So without further ado, here they are: the 4 times Hollywood got hacking right (and one time it went so wrong, it's still worth the watch).
1. The Social Network
It may not be all about hacking, but the bio(ish) Academy Award-winning movie about Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has a scene in it that had hackers excited after its release in 2010. In the movie's first scene, Zuckerberg is using perl scripts to scrape the data with the text editor emacs. The later hacking competition is a bit over the top for anyone interested in accurately portrayed computer science, but the first scene more than makes up for that.
2. The Matrix Trilogy
Considering how much we just talked about the dangers of visualizing the hacking process in portraying hacking on the big screen, listing The Matrix here may be counterintuitive. Contradictory, even. But hear us out: take away the plot and the times one of the characters actually changes The Matrix, and you get some of the most accurate depictions of hacking Hollywood has ever given us. That includes a glorious scene in the widely-panned sequel "Matrix Reloaded," which shows the character Trinity using the widely popular freeware hacking tool NMap. Other references include the exploitation of an unpatched SSH server, which had computer experts worried that the scene may be too accurate.
One of the most recent entries into this category is Blackhat, in which Chris Hemsworth plays an MIT hacker who uses, actual, realistic commands and methods to gain access to computer systems. We also encounter Anne Hathaway's character using command lines for UNIX-based systems that will look familiar to many IT lovers. It's no surprise that according to a poll by Wired Magazine, some Silicon Valley experts considered the movie the most accurate hacking movie ever.
4. Mr. Robot
The lack of Hollywood getting hacking right becomes obvious here: perhaps the most accurate portrayal of them all isn't even a movie, it's a relatively obscure (but excellent) TV show currently running on USA Network. It features a young computer programmer who hacks to expose criminals by night while resisting the efforts of an activist hacker to recruit him to his anarchist cause. While the show hasn't shown much actual hacking so far, its depiction of why hackers do what they do along with the accuracy of the hacking lingo are just some of the reasons why Wired Magazine called Mr. Robot "The Best Hacking Show Yet."
Bonus: One Time Hacking in Hollywood Went Hilariously Wrong
Given the plethora of bad hacking movies out there, we'd be remiss not to mention what might be our favorite example of hacking in the movies gone wrong. In the gloriously bad Steven Seagal movie Under Siege 2, the terrorist villains attempt to access a locked Apple Newton (remember those?) with this hilarious solution: "1 GB of RAM should do the trick." As an IT professional, this moment will either make you laugh or sob hysterically.
For therapy, we suggest one of the above four shockingly accurate hacking portrayals by Hollywood. If these movies got you thinking about your own company’s security—good. These movies bring to light an important issue that doesn’t get discussed often enough. To put your mind to rest (or possibly affirm your security paranoia), click here to get a free risk assessment of your internal security today.