TechSecurityCybersecurity In Movies: Myths vs. Reality

Cybersecurity In Movies: Myths vs. Reality


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Hollywood has done an excellent job of portraying hackers and the hacking process in an entirely fictional way. Typically, the hackers we see in movies are lone wolves, dress exclusively in hoodies, and know how to get into every single system within minutes. However, the reality is completely different. Hackers don’t all look alike, don’t know every single system like the back of their hands, and sure, they can’t guess just any password. 

To shatter these myths and highlight what hackers actually do in real life, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 myths we see in movies and debunk them.

All Hackers Are Genius Youngsters

Among the most popular tropes we see in movies, the archetype of a lonely, young tech genius is probably the most prominent one. They will often be outcasts with no social life, dedicating most of their time to consuming tech-related knowledge and improving their craft. While there are definitely some hackers who fit this profile, it is not what the majority of hackers are like. Some of the most dangerous threat actors are seasoned professionals, more often than not working in teams rather than going at it alone. 

Typing Super Fast

Another overused myth we see in movies depicting hacking is that all hackers type extremely fast, which is supposed to demonstrate that they’re good at what they do and have done it so many times that they can type this fast without any errors. What makes this trope even more comical is that they can type at the speed of light, even if their immediate surroundings are collapsing around them.

In reality, whether or not a hacker is a fast typer has no connection to how well he does his job. And more often than not, typing fast will result in more errors and, consequently, more issues that will need fixing later. 

Immediate Access

We have all seen many scenes of hackers typing on their computer for 2 minutes and then declaring, “I’m in.” In these scenes, the hacker usually has to gain access to some remote system, which he is dealing with for the first time, yet somehow, he managed to figure it out in a matter of minutes. This is seldom the case when a hacker works with a new system.

Usually, a person would need more time and supportive tools. Additionally, they would also need to check some existing vulnerabilities, which usually takes quite a lot of time. 

Using IP Address to Hack Into Accounts

Hollywood movies would have you believe you can hack someone by only knowing their IP address. While it’s true that your public IP address is on display unless you are using the best VPN, hacking into your accounts using an IP address is extremely difficult, although it’s not impossible. A more realistic threat that can come from having your IP address be public is that hackers can get ahold of other valuable information about you, like your city and even a Zip code. 

Instantly Guessing a Password

Another trope that has nothing to do with the realities of hacking is instantly guessing someone’s password. Granted, getting into an account that uses a password like “1234” or the owner’s birthday is not too difficult. Still, most people these days have more complicated passwords, especially if they’re trying to protect sensitive data with it. It’s pretty unheard of to guess a difficult password on a first try, or even in minutes. 

In real life, it usually takes hundreds or even thousands of guesses to get it right, but that would be pretty boring to watch on the big screen. 

Finding the Right Information Instantly

Last but not least, the myth that is constantly overused in movies is that hackers can get relevant information instantly. This trope is especially popular in crime shows. An agent will ask a computer nerd where the suspect last used his device, and the computer nerd will have the answer for him in a matter of minutes. There is no directory that holds all this information that you can just look through and find the answer to.  

These movies rarely reference all the paperwork one needs to fill out to request this kind of information in the first place, let alone the time and effort it takes to find out these details that are likely buried in an overwhelming pile of useless information.  

Andrew Edney
Andrew Edney
I am the owner and editor of this site. I have been interested in gadgets and tech since I was a little kid. I have also written a number of books on various tech subjects. I also blog for The Huffington Post and for FHM. And I am honoured to be a Microsoft MVP since January 2008 - again this year as an Xbox MVP.

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