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Hollywood and Hackers 323

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-think-about dept.
ford23 writes "CNN has a story on Hollywood and how it portrays Hackers to the public, and how the view on them has changed as the issues of hacking have evolved. Listed and discussed are 9 movies that have had the most effect on the image of hackers, WarGames and The Matrix naturally included." Tragically they also included The Net. At least Real Geniuses offsets it.
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Hollywood and Hackers

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yes, I used to take care of all the big Hollywood scriptwriters and their computers, starting in the CP/M days through the end of the 1980s. I used to consult with writers on computer topics, fix their Scriptor problems, reformat scripts, and eventually I learned enough to become a minor script doctor, working with them on story problems and plotlines. I can attest from personal experience, occasionally, even in small pictures, they do get things basically right. I'll give you an example.
    A writer came in and asked me how crackers get access to computers, he had a script where a little kid needs to get access to a military computer. He described the scenario, I didn't know where to go with it, so I just told him about the first box I cracked. I told him about how when I was 13, I always wanted to get a password to our university's new HP minicomputer, it could use paper tape so I wouldn't have to futz with punch cards anymore. So one day I'm walking past the big glass window in the computer room, and lying next to the HP console is a clipboard with the root password written right on it! I just wrote it down, and started using it from the free terminals next to the keypunch room. Of course I got busted almost immediately, and the admins called me into the office and demanded to know how I got root. I told them that if they didn't want people to get root, they better not leave the root password sitting in plain sight of hundreds of people walking past the window. Well anyway, I told the writer that the vast majority of exploits, and the easiest, are social engineering.
    So the final scene appeared in the move Iron Eagle, definitely a piece of crapola, but it was good enough to inspire 3 sequels (which were even worse). Look for the scene where the little chubby blonde kid fiddles with the back of a monitor so the operator thinks it's busted, then when the operator goes to get a repair tech, he sits down and grabs the password off the woman's clipboard and fixes the monitor, then orders up a fully armed F-16 for his buddy to fly (something like that, it's been years since I saw it). So sometimes writers do take a modicum of effort to get things to have a vague semblance of reality
    I could go on and on with Hollywood scriptwriter stories. Basically, the one thing you should know is that scriptwriters are in general, the most drug-addled, neurotic, agoraphobic, out-of-touch-with-reality idiots you ever saw, they make the hardest-core otaku or geek look positively normal in comparison. The #1 maxim of writers is to "write what you know" and these guys don't even know what normal life is like, so it's not surprising that they can't write about the hacker/cracker world with any sense of reality.
    To prove my point, I should tell you my favorite Hollywood scriptwriter story. One day, I got an emergency call that someone's floppy disk with their only draft of a valuable screenplay had been damaged, and he asked if I could come out and try to recover the disk. I worked and worked and could not recover about 15% of the script, so I decided as a last resort to inspect the surface of the floppy by rotating it inside the jacket. I found a little hole all the way through the magnetic medium, it looked like someone heated up a wire and pushed it right through the plastic. I showed it to the writer and asked if he knew anything that could account for such damage. He admitted he knew about the hole, and said he'd been smoking crack when the chunk got overheated and popped, and one little piece flew out of the pipe and landed on the disk, right in the floppy window onto the mag media. But he didn't tell me because he figured I wouldn't be willing to help if I knew the full story. I said the disk was unrecoverable, the damage was too severe, and I'd gotten all the data off that was possible. I suggested he put his disks in a safe place before lighting up his crack pipe next time. Then I gave him a bill for 3 hours work at my maximum rate (which he did pay, although not without first trying to pay me with crack!)
  • "one of the greatest movies ever made" -- Gotta agree with you there, man.

    Of course, the school "Pacific Tech" shown in the movie is based on the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the school in Pasadena where "hacking" is almost a way of life. Lazlo's Frito-Lay Sweepstakes caper was, in fact, based on a McDonald's sweepstakes hack pulled off by the members of Page House (they won a car, a few thousand bucks, and a lot of free food coupons). And several real Techers show up in the film, for instance, when that one guy starts going nuts during the take home final (they're kind of in the background).

    I was actually applying to Caltech about the time this movie came out, but they turned me down. But they did send me a newsletter in which they reviewed the movie. I also had a book at one point called Legends of Caltech that recounted the "untold stories" behind many of the famous Caltech pranks, such as the 1961 Rose Bowl hack cited by ESR in The New Hacker's Dictionary, and the McDonald's caper. Many of those pranks were echoed in the on-screen exploits of Mitch, Chris, Jordan, Ick, and Lazlo.

    And of course, now I think "geek movie song" every time I hear "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." (Not just because of this movie though; there was also the influence of TNT's Pirates of Silicon Valley.)

    Damn, if they'd release Real Genius on DVD, that'd almost be enough to make me finally give in and get a DVD player...

    Eric
    --

  • by Erbo (384)
    I've been wondering this myself...are there any pictures of this mighty Wurlitzer anywhere? I've wished I could find one that would be Linux-compatible...an IBM Rapid Access Pro is still sadly lacking in the function-key department :-).

    Eric
    --

  • You're not wrong. The Matrix is not, never was, and never will be, a movie about hackers. It's an entertaining movie, very comic-book like, and has enough special effects and action to make it one of the better sci-fi/action/fantasy films. But the sci-fi plot it's based on is as old as the hills and it doesn't have any intellectual depth. And I won't harp on some of the more ridiculous plot-based premises (human batteries!?). How the hell The Matrix made it into a list of "hacker" inspired movies is simply beyond belief.

  • Yeah, that really annoyed me about the Mission Impossible movies. The Mission Impossible TV series (though lame) was at least always a team effort with everyones skills coming together to pulloff some brilliant result.

    The movies, on the other hand, were just lame attempts to clone the James Bond concept. One massively skilled dude who does everything single handedly and ends up saving the day for all the weaklings around him.

  • mastrubation.

    just like posting to slashdot.
  • yeah, nobody appreciated the "wierd things" back in the day. . .
  • Mitnik was not a martyr because of what he did, but because of what the system did back to him, holding him without bail or trial for years. It was just plain unamerican how his rights were violated, even if he WAS a criminal.

    Because many /.-er's could see their activities drawing the same sort of response, and their activites were "less criminal" - even read-only things, even "white hat hacking". And the situation on the government side continued to degrade. Now they prosecute you and put you to trial more quickly, but in the meantime they search without warrants, and confiscate equipment without returning it for extended periods of time, EVEN in cases of mistaken identity, or identity theft. I don't do ANY hacking at all, but I'm appalled at how hackers have been treated by the law. (except for that guy that wrote that virus in Singapore, he totally got off).


  • "Goth" didn't even exist back then. I'm sure if it did, Matthew Broderick would have had black fingernail polish.
  • actually, he didn't write the virus, the whole thing was just an applescript that launched Outlook and sent an email to the aliens' Exchange server.
  • I kind of liked Enemy of the State, because the NSA had these sweaty hacker punks, who just did what they were told, and stayed out of the way of the political junk. Sure, the technical stuff was pure fantasy, and Wil Smith was, well, the black Keanu Reeves (only Wil's band sells records, whassup wit dat?). You could tell that these guys were probably ex-black-hat hackers that were caught, arrested, led into a room with "agent smith" and offered a job.
  • This TV series was one of my favorites for the few weeks it was on. Hot of the trail of War Games, it was about 4 teenage kids and computers. One (Ritchie) had a HUGE computer which as best as one could tell was basically anything electronic all linked together.

    Ritchie was the main whiz kid who, no matter where he was, find a computer that was linked into just about anything. I believe in one episode they were put into a closet to prevent them from spoiling something (Those meddeling kids) and TADA there was a terminal that controled everything in the building.
  • It seems that WOPR is playing with planes in South China.

    Do you wnat to play a nice game of Global Thermonuclear War?
    __
  • by Bishop (4500) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @08:02PM (#311874)

    It is funny. When an attacker illegally slips past security mechanims to retrieve someone elses data it is "because information wants to be free." When an agent of the "government" illegally obtains information, or a corperation quietly accumulates information it is "an invasion of privacy that must be stopped!"

    we are all hypocrites


  • Right. My best guess is that ClayJar simply objects to the review because he disagrees with it. That is, he thinks The Matrix was a really good movie (philosophically provocative, raising fascinating metaphysical questions, etc. [1]), while the reviewer thought it was garbage (presumably because he was not smart enough to grasp the philosophy, metaphysics, etc. [2]).

    From this, we can infer that ClayJar is, like Jon Katz, one of those people who finds the movie's philosophical questions provocative because he was encountering them for the first time, whereas those who have already spent any time pondering those ideas know that they are fascinating and all, but don't give this movie so much of the credit for them, especially given how badly it fumbled them. That is, someone who's just getting used to the idea of mixing reality and virtual reality would find the story "provocative", not minding that it took a beginning that could have been developed into a real alternate-universe thing and punted it into the easier-to-understand Terminator-style intelligent-machines-enslave-mankind ending. I for one was disappointed.

    There. I've been meaning to get my rant about The Matrix out for all this time. To be fair, though, the "use of humans as batteries" thing wasn't really "the main principle of the movie", except at a very shallow plot-element level. As for the silliness, I got the impression that it wasn't supposed to be just for electricity -- there was at least some attempt to "explain" that there was some mystical property of human nervous systems that the machines needed. On the other hand, this is an even more unfortunate crutch that a lot of mediocre science fiction falls back on: they tend to punt on the question of Strong AI by saying that the intelligent machines aren't regular computers after all -- they are based on some different futuristic technology, e.g., a "positronic brain", a "holographic matrix", or whatever the pods were supposed to be sucking out of the humans in this movie.

    --
    [1] He could have also just liked the effects, but then what's to disagree about? The reviewer acknowledged the cool effects but had different priorities.

    [2] Which may also be true -- there are really three levels on which to understand it: thinking the ideas are old hat and seeing how much better it should have been (me), lacking that context but at least comprehending what was there (ClayJar), and thinking it was all horseshit because it went totally over your head (the review).

    David Gould
  • It's absolutely hilarious that the reviewer was
    that stupid.

    Well, not about Keanu Reeves. He's dead-on there.

    Yeah, that's a ridiculously bitter review (even Mr. Cranky [mrcranky.com] didn't get so bent out of shape). But come on, calling him "stupid" because he hated a movie you really liked? On the other hand, Ebert's review [suntimes.com] touches on many of the same points and is excellently written (as usual).

    Shameless offtopic chatter: I saw Josie and the Pussycats last night and as it turns out, it was actually pretty funny (but it's really, really goofy).

  • There's a great article on Tron's special effects [vfxpro.com] that appeared last year on VFXPro that should hopefully answer your question. It includes a remarkable bit of insight regarding the incredible digital effects resources that were assembled for Tron only to be scattered to the wind after the end of production:

    Ironically, the transition to digital effects begun by "TRON" could have happened much faster. [
    Tron effects animator John] Van Vliet, who is currently assembling a book that focuses on the clash of business and art in Hollywood, gave a candid perspective of the import that "TRON" represented to the VFX community in 1982. He recalled that during production, the old regime at Disney essentially had gathered all the major talent who knew how to do CG. "They had a 10-year advantage. They could have been the studio that did 'Terminator 2.' They could have been the first guys there with dinosaurs," Van Vliet said. "They only saw that the show didn't make money and they dumped it. At the end of the production, they flushed everyone away. We, en masse, were amazed. In terms of the moviemaking business, it was one of the dumbest decisions ever made."
  • You got this alien race that hacks the human genome, creates humans and then goes off to Jupiter hacks that, causes it to explode and become a half powered sun-2. All before dinnertime.

    Pretty fucking cool.
  • The movie that got me as a kid was this one [videoflicks.com] - Kurt Russel is a student at a college that receives a mainframe donation. During an incident involving a shower of sparks, Kurt is transformed into a friggin' genius and eventually gets on a quiz show. A keyword during the quiz triggers a trance and Kurt spews data about the mainframe's previous owners, a criminal organization, who naturally set out to snuff Kurt.
  • Yeah, I actually liked this series. In Germany, the series was called "Trio, with four fists".

    ~afniv
    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:26PM (#311885) Homepage
    Tron. I hear they're re-doing it?

    Cool, they can update it for the times:

    • The evil entity, instead of "MCP" can be "MPAA" ("Master Proprietary Access Algorith"?)
    • Instead of a video game, the hero wrote a program for watching DVDs, which "MPAA" has stolen by cracking the author's website, then had the author's computer confiscated by sending anonymous email to the police accusing him of DMCA violations (and/or kiddie porn trade).
    • Of course, the tireless program doggedly continuing to keep the processes going to overthrow the Evil inside the MPAA 'mainframe' (a 'cluster' of two NT/W2K machines) isn't "Tron", it's "Cron".
    Hey, this has potential...an action-comedy-special effects movie for all ages! (I know I'd pay to see it!)
    ---
    "They have strategic air commands, nuclear submarines, and John Wayne. We have this"
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday April 06, 2001 @04:42AM (#311886)
    My biggest complaint is that many movies assume hackers can do *anything*- break into any company's database in five seconds, stop nuclear missles, etc. This makes for bad scripts when a hacker basically has no limits. Awful movies like this include The Net, Enemey of the State, Superman III, to name a few.

    I like movies where hacking is clearly limited to reality, and the plot is driven by character rather than technological onimpotence. Anti-trust is a resent example of this genre.
  • I dunno. I liked "Sneakers" enough to buy the DVD, even with the glaring technical inaccuracies.

    I think the cool thing about it is that it's about (relatively) 'normal' computer nerds - they weren't saving the world from robots or viruses, they didn't dress all in leather, carry fully automatic weapons, or have uncanny kung-fu skills. They were just security geeks.

    C-X C-S
  • It's true that little actual hacking went on (or at least it wasn't shown onscreen), but on the other hand "The Matrix" probably exposed a lot of people to new ideas about hackers:

    • people wearing black trenchcoats can be the good guys
    • people who are knowledgeable about computers and networks can be the good guys
    • you can't necessarily trust authority to tell you that "hackers" are bad
    • authority often has its own intentions for the use of technology which might not match up with the wishes of the people
    • knowledge of computers and networking can be an effective defense against the misuse of power by authority

    Sure, all of this was metaphorical, but that's the point. The public at large won't watch two hours of RMS writing the GPL 3.0, or the OpenLaw mailing list debating the finer points of encryption, even though those are the real actions which are being taken to defend the public interest. Instead you give people surrogates like Keanu and Carrie-Anne kicking ass, and at the end of the movie people feel that they identify a little more with the goals, they see things a little less as black-and-white, and they're more open to the issues that RMS or Emmanuel Goldstein might raise in the press that are relevant to real life.

    Identification with your cause and its goals (even if through an inaccurate depication of your day-to-day efforts) is the first step towards getting public mindshare on "hacker" issues.

  • In the Hackers review:
    Trivia: Emmanuel Goldstein, the name of one character in the hacking group, is a nod to the pseudonym of Eric Corley, publisher of the real-life magazine 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. Corley himself took the handle from a character in George Orwell's novel 1984.
    Corley served as a consultant for Hackers.
    Granted, I haven't actually seen the movie, but if someone like Corley's involved, it's gotta be quality. If it were in the current poll, I'd be tempted to change my vote from Sneakers.
    --
    How many classes do you have to take
  • A good chunck of "Freedom Downtime" (which I reviewed here [slashdot.org], is about efforts to kill Takedown (Goldstein rented a car and drove across the country in an effort to spread the word, and actaully even visited the set, where he found "Free Kevin" stickers on the actor's cars).

    I'm curious - was your comment sarcastic or serious? I haven't seen Takedown, but you know it's a pile of lies (gross factual errors like writing a guilty verdict into the script before he was tried (he plea bargined in the end), and the guy who found him never actually met Mitnick other than a few minutes in the courtroom),

    --
    Evan

  • Who the fuck is 'Emmanual Goldstein'?? Do you mean Eric Corley

    I figured since he wrote in Emmanual Goldstein on his name tag, and signs his emails simply "emmanual", he prefers going by that name in his capacity as editor/director/speaker. Also, the credits on the movie listed him as Emmanual Goldstein.

    No need to get profane... do you have something to add, or is your reply a near meaningless footnote? Did you know that Susan Sarandon's real name is Susan Abagail Tomalin, and Little Nell was born Laura Campbell, and now goes by Nell Campbell? Plenty of public people are known by alternate names. It's rare that a Michael Keaton article will mention his birth name was actually Michael Douglas, and mentioning such is purely unnecessary other than for trivia reasons.

    --
    Evan

  • The limit of what damage hackers can do has not yet been discovered, but we know that it is high.

    You're right, of course... I was referring to the median damage, not the maximum damage that can be caused by hacking.

    Point well taken - a malicious terrorist hacker could cause serious problems by introducing a series of planned bugs into... say flight systems (both ground and in-flight). Not that it would be easy, but theoretically possible. And as long as we're in theory, it's possible that the same precise thing could be done by an "innocent" hacker exploring the "flight simulators" that s/he is unaware are real systems. I've noticed the first thing most people do when confronted with a flight simulator is see what happens when you crash.

    --
    Evan

  • The most accurate 'hacker' movie I've ever seen was 'Sneakers'

    The most accurate I saw last weekend at I-Con. Emmanuel Goldstein was on a panel (along with people from the EFF and others) about Privacy in the Electronic Age, and afterwards, he showed Freedom Downtime, about the reality of hackers and how they are treated.

    Okay, so it's not Hollywood... and it's a documentary. But it's good enough for PBS and possibly the Learning Channel (incdently, they are finishing up getting the rights to the music; it's not available except in Film Shows right now). It should correct some of the spin - it should be required viewing for people who lobby against overzealous law agencies (Kevin Mitnick spent 8 months in solitary... no paper, no pen, nothing but four walls. Nothing. For eight straight months.) At very best, t might open the eyes of a few congressmen.

    And although I had heard beforehand that it was "the Kevin Mitnick Movie", it actually covers more than just Kevin. Several other cases are shown - it's just that Kevin's is so obviously a matter of the press milking the story and overreaction by an ignorant legal system.

    During the Q&A afterwards, a few people in the audiance (who had just wandered in), asked exactly what hacking is, and to what extent hackers can do damage (like the classic launching missles).

    My response to the non-techincal was simple: Hacking is playing with your old car sterio and discovering that you can crank it down and listen to the audio of TV broadcasts. Discovering or inventing new or neat uses for an existing technology. The limit of what damage a hacker can do is very small. Even the cable or power company has to send someone physically to your house to turn off service. If it could be done by computer, they would. The biggest danger that malicious hackers pose is dumping private information... almost everything else can be fixed with some effort (like restoring from backup).

    I've always admired the EFF and 2600... they pick good fights that should be fought. And now 2600 is fighting to educate.

    --
    Evan

  • How can you have a list of movies with hackers and not list The Manhattan Project? I mean, there's *real* hacking... building a nuclear bomb out of everyday household items (and some stolen plutonium).

    Oh, you meant "cracker." I understand. Nevermind.

    Shame on you, CNN.

    -Chris
    ...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...
  • Real Genious is great. I didn't realize just how acurate it was untill I watched it last month. Try to remember the sceen in which the dorm is frozen over an someone rides a home-made chair/sled down the stiars. Compare that image with this [hmc.edu]
    picture from a recent dorm trip from Harvey Mudd College [hmc.edu].

    --Ben


  • Wargames made me go out and get a modem. Unfortunately there were about 2 BBS's within dialing distance where I lived :-p Brodrick's character was a pretty accurate depiction of a hacker -- a goofy kid, not a black-wearing uptight cyberwannabe.
  • Yes, I know you were being humorous....

    But I wrote that guide you're referring to.. Please don't use it as an official reference that makes it sound like I know what I'm talking about.

    PLEASE!

    :)

    -Restil
  • Err... no. The biggest issue I had with Hackers was that the characters were all attractive teen idol type. Come on, how many people that good looking invest the time and effort to be hackers?

    Oh, no, wait, the movie would have been okay if it was called scr1pt k1dd1ez: 4LL j00r b4s3...

    And you may think there's nothing destructive here, but... Joe and Jane {Senator,Sixpack} watch The Sixth Day and want to ban cloning research because THEY COULD BE CLONED AND REPLACED BY AN 3V1L DUPLICATE!! This is sad, but movies that inaccurately portray science and technology while pretending to be true-to-life are a fucking pox.

    -grendel drago
  • Super and Hyper keys? Why hasn't this obviously whupass idea caught on?!

    Well, it's in the jargon file [tuxedo.org].

    But not being auctioned on eBay. *sigh*... Anyone find a picture?

    -grendel drago
  • Don't defend Hackers. It was a fucking minstrel show. Teen idols in hackface...

    Heh. 'Hackface'.

    -grendel drago
  • by ddstreet (49825) <ddstreet@nOsPaM.ieee.org> on Thursday April 05, 2001 @08:17PM (#311934) Homepage
    The most accurate 'hacker' movie I've ever seen was 'Sneakers'

    Excellent movie. Very good.

    Except for the part about being able to crack any encryption instantaneously (actually, only US government-based encryption). That was crap. But I guess every movie has to have one influence from Hollywood. (e.g. The Matrix had Keanu, but it was good anyway...)
  • maybe i saw another movie... but i saw one with silly graphics, with little kids using macs, and showing unix mainframes as swirling 3d gui's that made noise when you typed commands.

    You obviously missed that very important scene in the plane where the kid looks down at NYC and imagines it as computer circuitry. You were supposed to see that as a signal to the audience (you) that complex concepts would be metaphorically represented. Once you realize this the movie is quite enjoyable.

    And as for the kids using Macs, real hackers (using the hollywood definition, here) would only need a modem and communications software. Every OS I've seen supports modems and has communications software.
  • by DzugZug (52149) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:07PM (#311936) Journal
    Geeks get off on technology.


    Does that void the warrenty?

  • Did you guys read the review of 'The Matrix'? Did anyone at CNN even SEE the movie? Sigh.
    One night Neo encounters a famous hacker online who goes by the name Morpheus. When Neo agrees to meet Morpheus, thinking the pro might clue him in to some new hacking technique, Neo discovers that Morpheus is actually the leader of an underground gang who is fighting for control of this manufactured existence we call reality.

    Morpheus and his group recruit Neo to fight an even more menacing threat than federal agents: a malicious software "agent" that can kill using only its mind.
    Jezum Crow
  • Luxury. We decoded the characters on our C-64 visually and then squawked the ASCII values verbally into a tin-can with a piece of dental floss that, after 50 miles through the swirling snow (uphill! Both ways! In my father's pajamas!) connected to a *real* telephone switch board by two pieces of chicken wire held together by hope and a lump of dirt (and not a hell of lot of dirt, either! That was expensive back then!).

    Try to transfer the first Ultima Game over the phone that way! We had to stop, twice, because our vocal chords were tearing!

    Kids these days don't know how tough it was back then!
  • The first movie I saw that got me interested in computers I saw in 1st grade: Tron. I hear they're re-doing it?


    --
  • by drin (83479) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:12PM (#311953)
    'Sneakers' got me interested in computer security, systems, etc.

    And in their uncanny ability to trace a phone call's routing progress graphically on a projected world map via their acoustically-coupled modem?

    Please. I'm not sure to which 'accuracies' you're referring. The movie had so many technical inaccuracies you could have driven a PDP-8 through it. I don't doubt that it inspired some people, but I bet their inspiration fizzled when they discovered that most of the tech toys in the movie were just that - movie toys.

    -drin
  • by Speare (84249) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @05:38PM (#311954) Homepage Journal

    Corley served as a consultant for Hackers ... if someone like Corley's involved, it's gotta be quality

    Do you know how many people serve as 'consultants' for a given movie production? Most have very little access to understand the movie as a whole, nevermind be given a script, nevermind have their consultations heeded. I'd take that factoid with a grain of salt, and not tilt my opinion so easily.

  • How could they forget Murray Bozinski on Riptide, that really awful 80's detective show? You simply can't find a better example of the pimply faced, stringy hair and glasses hacker stereotype than Murray. But you've got to admit, he was pretty cool. Sure, he didn't fly the helicopter. Sure, he didn't have the sexy "Who put that roadkill on your face?" mustache. But he was always performing intrusions into corporate networks to solve crimes.
  • by hooded1 (89250) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:00PM (#311959) Homepage
    Although, nerds are now often portrayed as malicious computer crackers, our image has improved since the 80s. In many movies/shows nerds have a cool persona about them, often respectected to some degree, at least for their skills. This portrait of us may not be ideal, but it is sureley better than the socially inept, pocket protecting wearing, geek of the 80s and early 90s. This change proabably comes from the fact that most americans have computers and the internet is no longer portrayed as an esorteric gathering place for those who do not fit into society.
  • Most hollywood hacker films are not accurate, or realistic, but that's part of their charm I have enough of real computer IRL, I don't want it in the movies too. I like Net (well why
  • the not so unimportant movie 'Takedown' about Kevin Mitnick. In contrast to all other movies mentioned by CNN, Takedown is a biographic. This movie made me buy one of those very-very-small-notebooks!
  • by Fjord (99230) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @06:05PM (#311967) Homepage Journal
    In the movie Independance Day [imdb.com], Jeff Goldblum's character, Dr. David Levinson uses his 31337 sk1llz to hack into an alien computer system to save the world. Not only does he figure out the network protocol use by the distant race, but is able to use his Virus Upload Utility v0.9 (the one that says "Uploading Virus" as it counts its way to 100), to bring down the VWAN (Very Wide...) that coordinates the malicious visitor's attack. A billion greys near-simultaneously rush to the attachment of an email labeled "I love you", expecting a eCard, but instead rob their own network of its resources, and seal their own fate (if only they weren't so vein). Now that is hacking.

    Sure, pages like a nitpicker's guide [alignment.net] to ID4, say that Levinson could not have created the virus and the VUU v0.9 in the 4 hours 30 minutes the movie plot allots him, but Levinson is smart and knows how to program. The guy who wrote the Ana virus didn't know how to program and was caught (showing he isn't very smart). Levinson is no script kiddie, but a white-hatted wizard, and the VUU was written by the thousands of ready developers who signed on to SourceForge, who had been patiently waiting for any project, let alone one of this importance.

    In the epilogue, the aliens were defeated, but some survived to use the DMCA against Levinson, who went bankrupt on the settlement.

  • I wish I knew more about technology to notice the same discrepancies in these movies that everyone else seems to care so much about.

    Technical people probably get a bit more upset about technology errors than most other groups too. Most technology (especially computers) require a high degree of precision to get them to work at all. I think that's part of why the geek crowd cares about accuracy - people naturally drawn to the logical world of programming have the tendency exaggerated by the necessity of precision to get anything to work.

    That, and tech is cool now, but real tech is more in the Doing and Creating than it is the Save The World In Six Keystrokes that keeps people's attention. I'd love to see a book outlining reasonable plot devices for writers... why can no movie character ever get a bug in their program that takes 2 days to work out? Guess that would be kind of dull. :-)
  • Hackers complain about movies being inaccurate, but do they (or anyone else) really want to watch people take apart their computers and code on the big screen? I doubt it.

    I think the main difference is between "remotely plausible" and "just totally wrong." For a lot of shows, it seems the margin of error wrt computers is like doctors on ER healing people with magic powers. Granted, the realities of software development would probably make for a pretty mind-numbing film... but then why even bother to put it in?

    Speculating how the world might be if we could suddenly break any encryption or solve otherwise uncomputable problems can be fun. Throwing in silliness because you don't know any better, just to look "with the times" or cool, seems kind of lame.
  • by kreyg (103130) <kreyg AT shaw DOT ca> on Thursday April 05, 2001 @08:06PM (#311972) Homepage
    The accurate representation of technology / hacking in most movies and TV shows is so bad it's usually just too annoying for me to watch. But most people don't notice (or don't care) and probably go away with vastly confused understandings of technology, I have to wonder:

    How many shows are vastly confused in other areas as well?

    I'm thinking about things like medical or law enfocement (court room / police) dramas. Can doctors, lawyers and police officers find these types of shows as painful as I find "hacker" misconceptions? Just how inaccurate are they (certainly to some degree)?
  • CNN Interactive has two "Pauls" reviewing films: Paul Clinton and Paul Tatara. Clinton is actually a pretty decent reviewer. I don't always agree with him, but his opinions are intelligently presented and at least it's always clear that we saw the same movie.

    OTOH, Tatara (of Matrix fame) can be counted on to offer the most vapid, content-free analyses imaginable. He treats his column as a vehicle for his own political or philosophical biases, and he rarely if ever manages to deliver any meaningful critical or thematical insights on any films above the Disney level.

    Tatara is living proof of the Peter Principle. It's simply astonishing that his career in the entertainment industry has extended beyond asking his clientele if they would like butter on their popcorn. :(

  • by wolfpaws (112843)
    Personally, I found the obsessed Mathematician Max in Pi [imdb.com]was a pretty good approximation of a lot of geeks I know.

    (Except for the drilling-in-the-head thing and snot coming out of thei computers.)

    But then again...It was an Indie film and not Hollywood.
  • Yeah! Sneakers was pretty factual too. Imagine breaking some of the commonly used cryptosystems. That would be something all parties would kill for.
  • Ah yes, down in the steam tunnels with a Symbolics 3600. Now that was the hacker's computer. One user, LISP only, hardware support for garbage collection, and the MIT Space Cadet keyboard.

    (Typewriters have Shift. Teletypes added CTRL. PCs added ALT. Stanford added Top and Meta. The Space Cadet keyboard had all those shift keys, plus Super and Hyper, and they could be used in combination, typically bound to EMACS functions. Plus it had about thirty extra function keys.)

    So what if the thing only had about 1 MIPS, cost over $50K, took half an hour to garbage collect, and broke down every few days. Every self-respecting AI lab had to have a few in the early 1980s. There was a period back then when the AI guru thing got completely out of hand, despite the fact that none of the software did much.)

  • Here's a photo of a Symbolics/MIT Space Cadet keyboard. [freeserve.co.uk] Note the shift keys: Symbol, Shift, Hyper, Super, Meta, and Control.. They could all be used on a single character if you had enough fingers. Or you could use the Mode Lock button to lock in a combination of shift keys. Check it out.

    EMACS fully supported this keyboard.

    Another bad idea from the history of computing.

  • by SnakeEyes (123104) <ironsickel AT insightbb DOT com> on Friday April 06, 2001 @02:20AM (#311999)
    As a medical student, I can verify that most medical dramas are highly inaccurate.
    And while I am not a daytime tv watcher, soaps have by FAR the least accurate portrayals.
    I have to laugh when they show cardiogram readouts of a healthy heartbeat one moment, then a second later--flatline! Bring the paddles!!

    Of course, I'm usually the only one laughing. That's the main reason why Hollywood et. al. doesn't try to be accurate, because they realize that Joe Sixpack doesn't have sufficient knowledge to realize the difference.

    I wish I knew more about technology to notice the same discrepancies in these movies that everyone else seems to care so much about.

    However, to answer your question, there is one medical drama that is incredibly accurate: ER.
    Other than being a little more dramatic than the real thing (real doctors and nurses would *never* be shouting over a trauma victim, for instance) its usually right on.

  • The trouble with the discussion is the definition of hacker. In the general community, hacker does mean criminal.

    I was listening to a radio show where they were talking about criminal use of computers. The word hacker was always used by the host and guest to mean criminal. Someone called in to dispute the definition. The host badgered the caller saying he was out of step. Strangely: The host read the definition of hacker out of the dictionary and the first was about doing something well (a good hack) and the second was about criminal activity. The host then said this proved his point! BUT it didn't.

    It would be an uphill battle to get definition one back.

    The Star Trek shows had quite a few good hackers. Spock probably wasn't considered a hacker because he wasn't evil. Scotty did a good hack looping himself in the transporter.

    - James - [IMAGE]
  • the file browser was unbelievable
    You do realize that's an SGI app that's available somewhere or other on their website, yes?
  • by ClayJar (126217) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:25PM (#312002) Homepage
    If you don't remember reading CNN's review of The Matrix from way back in 1999, you've just got to read it again. It's absolutely hilarious that the reviewer was that stupid. (Yet more data to support my belief that whatever the reviews say should be run through an XOR-powered decryption routine with very few bits set in the mask.) Anyway, the review is at http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/Movies/9904/09/review.m atrix/ [cnn.com]
  • Have you noticed recently how the Geek personna is actually glorified in today's media. I mean back in the 80's we were look down upon as these social misfits. Now hackers and programmers are looked up to as "Gurus" and "Experts". Also the media gives alot of attention to these virus creators and to their arrests etc... this only serves to heighten the mystique and image of hackers, crackers, geeks and otherwise computer savvy individuals. The question is, whether or not this is just a trend or it the image here to stay? Personally, I think as long as PC's are a major part of our everyday life the power of "Geekhood" will be respected. People in trouble like to have answers and who best to turn to than someone who is an expert in computer lingo, software and hardware. Slightly off the topic but in someways related, our current generation of kids are so computer literate it often makes me wonder, who is going to be the futures firemen, policemen, garbage men etc... It just seems that these kids are all headed in the direction of programming, and computer related subjects. No doubt the introduction of the PC has truly changed our world, whether it be for better or worse.

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    Domain Names for $13
  • Why do we all seem to have a soft spot in our hearts for hacking? Was it because of that thrill we got when we guessed mr. hibbard the science teacher's password so we could up our print-out quotas and print a bunch of ascii porn? Maybe so. I reckon most everyone out there has at least something like that in their background. Is this what makes hacking so fastenating to us all? It's really glorified in our community.

    It's glorified because of it's majesty. One does true hacking when someone sees a problem and a solution at the same time, and the solution is so beautiful that you have to apply it. The solution is alive in your head and you have to bring it to the real world.

  • by epl (140556)
    How come they didnt list takedown? I thought it was pretty good and one of the most realistic hacker movies ever made, atleast compared to say hackers... although hackers is one of my favorite movies :)
  • They've tried to criminalize 'hacker' and 'cracker' and tried to get people to confuse the two. There might be a reason for this. If people actually start using computers and start respecting the 'net for a legitimate place to get their news and entertainment, then the news and entertainment media loses it's stranglehold on what people actually watch and see.

    If people actually see both sides of an issue, they might come to a conclusion that does not fall in line with the media's pre-conceived notion on how society should run.

    DanH
    Cav Pilot's Reference Page [cavalrypilot.com]
  • I'm showing my age here, but I've been taking apart electronic gadgets since the days of the Sinclair Spectrum. The fact that it won't be as easy to screw around with post-PC electronics won't stop people - look at things like the hack-Tivo project and Linux on the iPaq. There will always be people that like to take things apart to see how they work - the DMCA won't stop that.
  • Is that we are spotty teenagers who spend all nite staring at crts and downloading pr0n... and to be fair it's probably accurate :)
  • "Give him head!!??" Be a beacon!!??"

    ok, where is that guy that has that as his .sig?

    ---

  • by stain ain (151381) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:03PM (#312025)
    A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?
  • by EvlPenguin (168738) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @05:04PM (#312031) Homepage
    Scroll to the bottom of the article, and here's the other headlines you see:

    - IE flaw lets hackers take over user's computer
    - Security center issues antihacker tool
    - Hunt down those hackers and ... ignore them?
    - FBI warns of digital-crime wave from Eastern Europe

    Etc., etc... gee, a few moments of (little) insight and then it's right back to the media steriotypes.
    --
  • Yeah, because it's sooo easy to hack into the computer that controls all the nukes in the US (the ONE computer, heheh). It also makes sense that they wouldn't have any kind of failsafe or manual override in case the supercomputer went down, got buggy, or wasn't Y2K compliant.
    Face it, Hollywood will never make a "realistic" hacker movie, because hacking is so very dull to watch.
    Come to think of it, though, I'm kinda dissapointed they didn't mention Johnny Mnemonic. Oh, wait. No I'm not. That movie sucked .
  • by Psmylie (169236) on Friday April 06, 2001 @06:08AM (#312033) Homepage
    I think the reason for a lot of the inaccuracies is that they need to dramatize things for the audience. Nobody is going to pay $7 to see some sweaty, pimply faced youth sitting in the glow of a computer screen and the fog of his truely inhuman B.O., surrounded by empty cans of soda, pizza boxes, and twinkie wrappers.
    Not that I'm speaking from my own experience, of course. Ahem. I'll be moving along now.
  • Everything you said about hacking is absolutely correct, except one...

    The limit of what damage hackers can do has not yet been discovered, but we know that it is high.

    As a very simple example, the first destructive worm was a hacker experiment gone awry.

    Taking down a medical database at a hospital might slow down the ER staff just enough to kill somebody who otherwise might have lived. Hacking is an important method for learning about how things work, but to say that it can do no real harm is a little misleading.

    I recall when I was a young kid we had a teacher that insisted that "you can not damage computer hardware with software"... we of course saw that as a great hacking challenge. One of the kids in our class wrote a small program that caused both of an Apple]['s floppy drives to spin (and keep spinning) simultaniously. Run it overnight, and burn out the power supply. A fairly simple trick, but not bad for a 10 year-old kid.

    A hacker can do tremendous ammounts of damage, both deliberately and by mistake, when rummaging through an unfamiliar system looking for weaknesses. Most good hackers, like good wilderness campers, do their best to leave no trace of their visit, but not all hackers are good hackers... and even the good ones were green and ignorant once.

    The biggest danger malicious hackers pose is not dumping private information. There's the danger of theft. There's also the danger of higher maintenence costs (both in preventative security and disaster recovery).

    That said, I know of no case where a malicious hacker has done as much damage to a company as bad software design. Looking through that lens, the most effectively destructive hacker in history is Bill Gates. (Not because Microsft's software is the worst, there have definately been worse software companies through the years, but because Microsoft's bad software has been put on more critical systems than anybody else's.)

  • Everybody talks about what a great hacker movie "Sneakers" was, but an earlier Redford movie, "3 Days of the Condor" was a better one.

    It was a movie about a crypto expert who used work for the government, but was suddenly left "out in the cold".

    It also has what was probably one of the earliest phone phreaking scenes ever made, if not the first.

  • I know what you mean.

    For years I was the "Hacker" at my high school only because I understood what to do when windows/dos fscked up. No one else understood what DOS was, other than the black screen before windows loaded. I was 13 (1994-5) when I got on the internet. This was when evil hackers and the alt.sex.everything usenet groups were making the news.

    Great. So what, having people think you are a hacker really doesnt do anything to your life, except bother teacher in your schools. Folks found out how I got on the internet (remember this is 1994) and got crap from folks: I dialed into my library's card catalog, bounced my connection to a gopher on NJIT's card catalog, and was on my way. NJIT at the time had a choice on their gopher that opened up lynx to connect to another college's webpage. I just pointed lynx to a real page and off I was.

    Thank god this was the days before schools had LANs because I would have been in deep shit everytime something went wrong. I was the hacker, it had to be my fault. I couldn't convince anyone that I wasn't a hacker, and for years, I couldnt convince the parents of my friends that if their computer was left unsupervized that I wouldnt "hack something". Were busy eating pizza and playing playstation, and they were worried about me leving the room we were in, sneaking off alone, dialing into "something" from their pc, and "hacking" while they were off doing something else.

    I don't think anyone is that lame.

    Besides, I couldnt hack.

    I just understood what I was doing on a pc. Come to the later years of high school, into the days of LAN's in school, and I got continued references to "Thank god your on 'our side'". By this time I was the kid they asked when something was broken. I went out of my way to be helpful to the teachers running the network to prove I could be trusted, and that if something happened, it wouldnt have been me.

    I guess its a good thing I was there, the teacher involved didn't know that the entire hard drive the school's webpage was stored on had file sharing on, and had no password. Eventuallly someone would have found it and done something stupid.

    Kalrand

    -the voice of reason

  • by RedWizzard (192002) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:58PM (#312047)
    I think the X Files has had a far greater influence on the public's perception of nerds than any of the films mentioned in the article (except perhaps Sneakers). The Lone Gunmen are certainly cool, if slightly weird. They're very popular characters which is why they're getting their own spinoff series.
  • I can't believe they left out Weird Science. That has gotta be the most realistic hacker movie ever. When is mainstream society going to get a clue.
  • If you go that far, what about Jurrasic Park? There we have a pre-teen girl is able to circumvent the security systems on the park's networked computers.

    "Hey, I know this! This is Unix!"

    amazing.

  • "I want him in the stores until he dies paying" - MCPAA
  • And, most importantly, the article did a good job of saying how movies like the Net and Hackers were more than little unrealistic. (But that doesn't mean it's not what people still believe...)
  • Actually, watching people pour over manuals for hours, and searching the web for information for hours, and writing code for days, is pretty boring stuff. Why would they want to show that?

    Which is exactly why the hacker image has been so bad in movies. Not only do most people not understand what hackers/geeks/etc do, but what we do is boring to them.

    Besides, when you go to the movies, people want excitement! Love! Romance! Danger! Stuff blowing up! It's only when you hear Shall we play a game? when things get interesting. (Although Wargames did a nice job of showing the research Lightman had to do, I think that was the only time I've ever seen it in a movie...)

  • Actually, it's the slugs doing it to you, you just don't know it yet. Savor the irony.
  • Yeah, but Charlie's Angels used IE. ("Hot babes use our product!") Actually, that's probably not a bad marketing plan...
  • by mike260 (224212) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:49PM (#312077)
    I thought that Brazil was a glaring omission; >15 years old, and still 100 times more relevant than crap like The Net and Hackers.

    Incidentally, is Tron really 'hand-painted' as the article asserts? I thought it was B&W footage over proto-CG.
  • I didn't say that it was accurate, just that it was one of the most accurate hacker movies I've ever seen. What, was 'The Matrix' more realistic? Actually, it WAS accurate in what hacking can really be all about... You work hard, and you get to make a lot of money as security experts (or go to jail when you get caught doing black hat stuff). And, there's more to 'hacking' then just computers. It also involves social engineering, etc. The movie shows all of this pretty well, I thought.

  • by NineNine (235196) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @03:59PM (#312087)
    The most accurate 'hacker' movie I've ever seen was 'Sneakers', and it's at least 10 years old. 'Sneakers' got me interested in computer security, systems, etc.

  • hmm nope I didn't read the short story .. just kinda liked the premise .. oh and I was younger then =) .. maybe I was easier to impress =)
    --
  • by SirFlakey (237855) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:26PM (#312089) Homepage
    ghost hacking. I agree .. "Ghost in the Shell [imdb.com]" is a damn fine "hacking" movie (perhaps so far the definitive hacking movie? well after the classic "war games"). Can't comment on "real geniuses" never seen it. I confess I liked (for the entertainment value) "the Matrix" and "Johnny Mnemonic [imdb.com]" and to a lesser extend "Hackers [imdb.com]".

    Then there was techno trash like "Virus".
    --

  • by byronbussey (238252) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:02PM (#312090) Homepage
    Tragically they also included The Net.

    Why is this tragic? The point of the article is how movies present the image of a hacker. The Net falls into this category.
    Even though Sandra B is, of course no hacker, the uninformed will think she is; thus molding the general publics perception of what hackers are, and what hacking is like.


  • The reason hackers are often misrepresented as "crackers" in the movies is simple. People don't understand the difference. What really is the difference between someone who breaks the law about DVDs and someone who breaks the law about infiltrating a server? People just see that someone is breaking the law, with a computer, and they get scared. What if he uses his '1337' skillz to hurt my computer? Another aspect of the fear, though unrelated, is the socialistic aspect of many parts of hacker society. (the GPL, for instance) People (in America, at least) don't like Communism and are likely to be wary of anything resembling it.

  • by cmowire (254489) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:34PM (#312111) Homepage
    Real Genius is one of the reasons why I'm such a geek. Val Kilmer was my role model at that age. ;)

    The thing I liked best about Sneakers was not that it got the tech right. You can't get the tech right in a movie, it seems. But they got the people right. I mean, every Slashdot whacko can identify with Dan Akroyd's character.

    Two funny anecdotes...

    After War Games aired, people who were going to be telecommuting suddenly weren't allowed because everybody was scared to have a modem attached to the net. I'm not making that up.

    And I was having a chat with an AI researcher friend of mine. It turns out that they are doing something just like the matrix to slug brains. They have very very few neurons, so it's pretty easy to hook them up to a simulated body and they are happy and stuff.
  • What about how hackers are portrayed as the Evil Ones in Jurassic Park1 and James Bond::Goldeneye (barely mentionned)?

    <rant>

    In JP1, the fat fast-food-eating porno-addicted jerk runs away and gets killed. The hero is of course an innocent intelligent kid that knows Unix. Ok, sure, she knew Unix, maybe a future hacker (it's not because you know unix that you're a hacker), but to the eyes of the public, she's the smart kid that saved the day, while the evil-hacker ran away.

    In James Bond, there again: sex-craving anti-social evil genious always trying to hide. Of course, he dies while his ego expresses itself. Blah, Tomorrow Never Dies does a much better job at showing that technology and the media are the Evil. Tomorrow Never Dies really gave me the impression that we must impose stronger regulation on technology because technology helps evil people.

    What Hollywood is saying, is that technology enslaves us, and that evil people can use this to their advantage.

    Then again, I'm just a computer geek. My two cents.

    </rant>
  • After my parents watched Hackers for the first time it took 2 hours before they stopped believing that I wore sunglasses while I glared at the screen. "Yes mom, I hack by day and suck blood out of the sysop by night!"
  • I personally haven't (missed the debut at the Toronto film festival), but apparently this movie is a true story hacking drama based around the exploits of the Computer Chaos Club. A friend who saw the movie explains it's one of the best he's seen in the genre.

    This title was created in Germany (home to many of the club's members) and was shown at the local film festival with English subtitles. There is currently no DVD, but there is a non-subtitled or dubbed VHS available from the Dutch version of Amazon Books.

    There is a five-meg trailer of 23 available at: http://www.netcologne.de/~nc-schmitbo/down23.html

    ICEPHREAK
  • More importantly... The Matrix is "about hackers" in that, the main characters were described as "hackers"

    In how many points are their computer skills used? Umm, 1.5
    1. one full point for reading the matrix code off of those screens, probably took some tech savvy, (Cipher says "I can't even see the code, all I see is...")
    2. one half point for paying Neo's bills... selling "stuff" on zip-disk out of the hollowed out copies of "Simulations and Simulacra"

    So then what do we have... pretty much that people are called 'hackers' and Trinity has a big hack in her history (which she blows off as history)
    Meta-movie wise, we have people who are more efficient within a computer system than the unenlightened (term is my own), and one who actually can re-write the system on the fly. So I guess those are "hackerish" qualities, but not quite in the "we see them doing hackerish things" sense.

    Of course, they were portayed as confident and competant (and, err, super-human) in the computer world, and downtrodden and scraping-by in the real world more "meta-movie" interpretation of them as hackerish.

    Anyway, despite all that, I still don't think about it as a movie about hackers in the sense of hackers hacking... *shrug*
  • So then Fijord sez:

    "Sure, pages like a nitpicker's guide to ID4, say that Levinson could not have created the virus and the VUU v0.9 in the 4 hours 30 minutes the movie plot allots him, but Levinson is smart and knows how to program."

    Hey, the guy was an MIT grad. If anyone on this planet could pull off interfacing with an alien OS and infecting it with a virus while hungover, it's a Tech graduate.

    You should see what these boys and girls do when they're sober.

  • I'm sorry, that's not correct.

    A nerd is actually what is referred to as a geek around here.

    A geek was a weirdo who bit the heads off chickens in a circus routine. In Revenge of the Nerds, Booger was the closest to being a geek.

    All the technologically advanced dorks were nerds, not geeks. A better term for the movie might have been "Revenge of the Dorks", consisting of geeks (Booger), nerds (the boys), foreigners (Asians) and Lamar. "Dork" is a synonym for shlong, though, and thus would not make an acceptable movie title.

    Modern etymology has, apparently, swapped the meanings of nerd and geek for some reason. Perhaps "nerd" was so hateful growing up to teenagers in the 80's that they preferred the more respectable "geek"?

  • by Migelikor1 (308578) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:01PM (#312140) Homepage
    My biggest complaint about Hollywood is that they don't seem to understand the difference between Hackers and Crackers. Oh well. When I tell people I decrypt DVDs, they usually look at me like I'm going to kill them, so I guess that misunderstanding of intent is common. My favorite depiction of hackers/crackers is in the movie "Sneakers" with Robert Redford. Along with a whole bunch of comical thievery and hijinks, the main characters manage to secure a piece of hardware which can decrypt almost anything. They promptly bankrupt the republican party via the bank. -OK Scotty, very funny, now beam me my pants.
  • by sleeper0 (319432) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:50PM (#312153)
    OK, so of course I've seen all those movies. Good stuff, i guess, especially if you can turn off the "that's not how it works" part of your brain.

    But what are we celebrating here? I understand that all this could be pretty exciting for the population at large, as it's an unknown world. But what about the geeks out there? It's a pretty known world right? Worse yet, it's pretty fucking boring.

    Why do we all seem to have a soft spot in our hearts for hacking? Was it because of that thrill we got when we guessed mr. hibbard the science teacher's password so we could up our print-out quotas and print a bunch of ascii porn? Maybe so. I reckon most everyone out there has at least something like that in their background. Is this what makes hacking so fastenating to us all? It's really glorified in our community.

    But what do "hacking" bring us? Where are the 31337 hackers that have stopped an evil mastermind hacker from bring down greenpeace and killing all the whales for his huge whale oil bomb to be set off at the polls? Where have the robin hoods been that stol 100th's of a penny from everyone's account at BigMegaBancCorp to fund the orphanage up on lookout road so that little jimmy would get the liver transplant? Where in fact is a single account of anyone anywhere close to black hatery doing anything that wasn't 100% in their own interests?

    I don't see the examples. In fact 99.99% of the self-proclaimed hackers out there are into nothing more than web site defacement via the unicode bug, or root hacking cable modem linux boxes with the DNS exploit to put up eggdrop bots to hold their favorite channel. Maybe once in a blue moon someone will apply these pre-written tools and break in somewhere good, see lots of data, and have absolutely no idea what to do with it. Wow, look at all these credit cards, maybe I should buy freestolencreditcards.com and post em all? Hahaha, that'll stick it to the man.

    I was a netcom subscriber in '94/'95 when kevin mitnick was raveging their networks. He's supposed to be an elite uber-hacker, using cell-phone booky boxes and all manner of tools to hide his tracks. The FBI was after him at this point, and I think he knew. Never the less, what was he doing on netcom? Mostly making stupidly named files in people's root directories with root priv's, just to show people he could. And who was he doing this to? Mostly to people a friend of his (and netcom subscriber) didn't like. Wow, way to go kevin.

    When it comes right down to it, everything that goes on with hacking these days is pretty damn juvenile. But has this changed? Not in 10 or 15 years. It's not worse now, it's always been stupid. Back in the 80's elite hackery generally involved getting someone's TRW records and posting it somewhere to let people screw with them.

    When the revolution comes, I think I'll stick with the government instead of the cyber-revolutionaries. At least when the government wins they won't be sitting alone in their bedroom laughing and snorting up a storm saying "oh kewl. viva la revolution. Heh. I am the supreme elite commander, you all must bow down to me! Haha! maybe i should order a pizza"

    [note if you wish please silently change the word hacker to cracker, black hat hacker, ciminal, h4x0r or whatever other word will keep you from replying to me about the use of the word hacker. you know damn well who we're talking about and it's not alan cox]

  • by OSgod (323974) on Thursday April 05, 2001 @04:01PM (#312157)
    Sneakers was an incredible movie -- great cast and good execution. Accurate? On some technical details yes, on the whole conspiracy.... only if your a Scientologist

    By the way, if you are, I have some excellant investment opportunities in atomic turf... expensive to get into but the payback is incredible.

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