What I Learned About Computer Security From Movies

A hacker wearing a hoodie in a dark room. He is working on a retro laptop.
Created by Davezilla with Midjourney v4

Computer security is a subject that, with the sole exception of Mr. Robot, has never been portrayed realistically on movies or television.

  1. You can simply type sudo: Give me the answer now!.
  2. The password is always a personal item on the criminal mastermind’s desk.
  3. If the password doesn’t work, you can always yell the word, “Override!” at the PC and it will ignore all advanced computer security protocols.
  4. Hacking into government systems only takes 30 seconds.
  5. And once you’re in, you have to loudly announce, “I’m in!” to everyone in the room.
  6. Once in, someone from the other side is required to yell, “They’ve breached the firewall!”
  7. Command line also happens to look like a wireframe version of the Metaverse.
  8. Once you destroy the system, it will repeat its last phrase multiple times. Each repetition will be spoken slower and at a lower note, while its virtual face melts.
  9. Getting into virtual reality means lots of Matrix-green math symbols and bits of code will float and tumble gently around your head until you find the halls of lit up computer servers. There will be lightning. You can type at 200 wpm.
  10. Once you send a virus to the bad computer, it will spark and smoke, then explode. Because that’s how malware works.
  11. It only takes a few minutes to write a virus that can take down a massive, evil computer network that was already uncrackable.
  12. All viruses must be installed one of two ways:
    • From a standard-issue police department PC
    • In person, and that means getting past 24 identical guards without being detected, climbing a tower, using a stolen security card, then swiping into the Computer Room, which is lit in blue. It has rows of identical mainframes. You will know exactly which mainframe to go to, and it will conveniently have an open USB-C port on the front.
  13. Artificial intelligence won’t show any emotion — until it’s being destroyed.
  14. All AI will live inside giant, cylindrical towers, set in bottomless pits. Getting to the actual computer requires a long climb, possibly swinging from a cable, and one last fight with the nemesis. You will fall, but either catch yourself by one hand, or be caught up and rescued seconds before dying a fiery death.
  15. AI works better over heat instead of refrigeration like mainframes. You will likely burn to death.
  16. The complete database of a Fortune 500 corporation can be downloaded, from one location, onto removable media.
  17. FBI hackers have their own dress code.
  18. No one ever turns off the clicking or beeping sounds on their computers. They actually help the computer’s processor run faster, like the stripes on a muscle car.
  19. Everything is done from laptops, desktops, and mainframes. No one uses tablets or phones.
  20. Phones are only used for calls, geo-tracking suspects, and for remote detonation.
  21. You can easily find a computer nerd who is willing to work with The Authorities anywhere on the Dark Web. Their usernames are listed somewhere.
  22. None of the hackers access existing hacking scripts Ever. They all re-invent the wheel.
  23. You can get past any front desk security guard by posing as a plumber or electrician. You will be buzzed in without having to go through the metal detector.
  24. If front desk security does stop to question you, simply name drop the CEO who asked for you personally to come out (because billionaire CEOs are on a first-name basis with their plumbers). Pretend to call him. The guard will immediately fear for his job and back down. Simple.
  25. All hackers listen to techno and have punk haircuts, circa 1982.
  26. The most important law of hacking: You must wear a hoodie. I don’t make the rules.

I had a lot of help on this one. Co-authored by my old friends, Chris Moritz and Scott Vowels.