In many television shows and movies today, hackers and cybercriminals take the form of evil villains or mischievous antiheroes. While this characterization is undoubtedly fun to watch, they don’t quite get the facts right. Most of the computing constructs demonstrated in entertainment don’t actually exist in real life. This week, let’s discuss what real-life hackers are like, and how they’re different from your favorite computer genius characters.
Hacking Isn’t So Up Tempo
In entertainment, hacking is often portrayed as a fast-paced exercise. Typically, the hacker completes their job in minutes, if not seconds, while exciting music races in the background. The actual work that the, always handsome, hacker is doing consists of typing about 20 lines of code with no mistakes, having a quick revelation as the music swells, and finishing with a flourish of key pressing that results in the victim’s computer crashing or, even more ludicrous, spontaneously combusting.
While not all television and movie representations are this dramatic, they’re usually still much faster than actual hacking.
Real hacking takes hours, if not more, and isn’t nearly as easy as entertainment makes it seem. Hackers are sometimes sitting in front of their computers for long periods of time reading hundreds of lines of code to try and find some vulnerability.
Real Hacking Wouldn’t be Fun to Watch
The reason most entertainment platforms depict hacking this way is that the real stuff is…actually pretty boring. This characterization of the insanely smart and good-looking techy hacker that can make technology do anything they want it to is far from the truth. Hackers are usually just average people, or sometimes loners, that often work in a boring office setting to find cracks in networks so they can extract data.
Real hackers often use automated tools to send out phishing emails, crack passwords, or create scams that fool users into giving them access to their information. None of which would be enjoyable to watch on television.
Also, a hacker’s goal is usually to collect sensitive information or, at most, install malware on your device. The idea that with a few clicks a hacker could crash your computer or make it explode is absolutely preposterous.
Why It’s Important to Know the Difference
You may be thinking, “but it’s just entertainment! Why do we care what real hackers do?”. Well, let’s face it, these acts are illegal, and glorifying them the way so many movies and television shows can make it seem like hacking is an acceptable or even cool thing to do. It’s not. Hacking is a crime and these unrealistic characterizations of hackers could give people the wrong impression about the reality of cybercriminals.
So, should Hollywood change how they portray hackers in entertainment? Not necessarily. It’s true that these depictions of hackers are much more interesting to watch. However, it’s important to know that Hollywood hackers aren’t real and shouldn’t be taken seriously. If anything, view them as comic relief for how ridiculous they are.
What are your thoughts on hackers in movies and television? Do you have a favorite Hollywood hacker? Leave your comments below and check back soon for more great technology content!