The truth about hacking scenes: here’s everything you need to know

Nowadays, many TV shows and movies seem to have some hacking scenes. However, very few of them provide an accurate (or at least reasonable) representation of hacking. These scenes usually involve tracking people, hacking government agencies, launching huge cyber attacks, etc. Just like you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the Internet, you shouldn’t always believe what you see on TV.

Examples of ridiculous hacking scenes

Two idiots, one keyboard

NCIS is one of the shows that don’t do well when it comes to representing technology. On many occasions, their tech scenes are very inaccurate and don’t even take into account basic common sense. The scene below is a very well-known example. As her computer is getting hacked, Abby starts to panic and doesn’t know how to stop the attack. That’s when her colleague jumps in to help. But what does he do? He starts typing with her on the same keyboard.

Apparently, they think that smashing a keyboard with four hands is more productive. However, if you want an accurate representation of the outcome, here’s what you would see:

PlI heaavse se ntop otidehe aahttowac k wte reaollstyo pnetehat d htaco kefix r!!!the problem

And to make things worse, he says that he can’t fix the problem because he doesn’t understand the code he’s seeing. Well here’s the hard truth: NO hacker on earth will show you the source code on YOUR machine that he’s trying to hack. In most cases, you wouldn’t even see anything. When the goal of a hack is to breach the system, it’s done in the most discrete way possible in order to be effective and successful. A hacker wouldn’t come straight to you and say: “Hey buddy, I’m hacking your machine. Here’s my source code and some random open windows with green text scrolling in case you want to figure out how to stop me. Have fun!“.

One more bonus from NCIS for the tech guys: did you know you can track someone’s IP address using a GUI interface built with visual basic? For the non tech people, here’s a human readable translation: “I’ll create an MRI Image using Microsoft Paint… see if I can reverse the patient’s bone cancer.”

Rakesh the genius

God Friended Me GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

The show God Friended Me is one of the shows I really like. However, it’s also one of the shows with a lot of inaccurate hacking scenes. Rakesh is a genius computer guy who’s portrayed in the show as someone who can hack anything. Tracing cell phones, medical records, financial records, hacking into top secret military agencies, etc. Anything you want, he can do. He’ll get on it and get you whatever you need in a matter of minutes.

We can keep going for days exploring the ridiculous hacking scenes from movies and shows without running out of content. However, there’s another side to the story too.

The bright side

It would be unfair to mention all the ridiculous hacking scenes without pointing out that there are some shows that do put an effort to nail the hacking part. One of these shows is Mr. Robot. The writers of the show made sure to nail even the very minute details like the code shown on the screen. They used to have tech brainstorming sessions with professional hackers in order to figure out how a certain hacking scene should happen to make it as real as possible.

This show gives you an idea about how hacking really goes in the real world. So if that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend you check Mr Robot!

Do you know any other good (or bad) shows about hacking? Let us know in the comments below!

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