In my spare time I watch a lot of movies and TV Shows – they are all legal copies of course 😉 . A lot of these modern productions often still have hacker stereotypes. Awkward men and women with unimpressive to zero social skills, dress in hippie costumes, wear thick nerd glasses, have no friends in the real world, can hack into the CIA database at the drop of a hat and still live in their parents’ basements. To me that is a forgivable mistake. What is unforgivable is when producers and directors wilfully insult us by implementing these supposed hacks and exploits using inaccurate and ridiculous source codes.
A British programmer, John Graham-Cunning, has started a fan submission website on Tumblr titled Source Code in TV and Films that allows users to submit movie screenshots of computer code as well as its origin and purpose in real life. For an industry that is obsessed with preventing piracy, the movie industry sure does a lot of copying and pasting. As it turns out a lot of the code is surreptitiously copied from a host of places including random websites. Some films like Battlefield Royale even use GPL licensed source code from nmap and it would be interesting to know what the legal implications, if any, would be. I wonder if all these movies obtained the permission to use the code.
This nascent website has not only proven popular but it has also managed give an interesting perspective on how far and how serious the creators of various movies were willing to go to make their movie or T.V. show authentic. Some directors and producers are either unwilling or unable to pay for actual plausible hacking props resulting in the most ludicrous depictions. To be fair, I, like most movie goers, do not know my Fortran from my Delphi but I cannot help but meh when hackers start pinging unroutable private addresses with abandon. Every self-respecting techie knows you cannot ping 192.168.x.x across the internet for Christ-sakes.
Some of the popular culprits that have been so far exposed for the frauds they are include Charlie’s Angels. A character in the TV series uses Sudoku solving software to break into a safe! The conspiracy theory TV series, XII, used html code from the Engadget. CSI:NY just chose the lazy path and wrote down simple html code perhaps because it was deemed it would look geeky enough for most people. A code snippet shown in the series Elementary simply prints out “Hello World!” and this is in a production that is supposed to depict a modern day Sherlock Holmes. In Arrow the Java code used to break encryption is actually used in calculating the position of Jupiter’s moons in real life!
While new technologies such as computer animation and CGI rendering have greatly improved the quality of productions in the movie and TV industry it appears they, the industry, have not been faithful in turn. Most production sets have been guilty of choosing the easy way depicting inaccurate hacking scenes and scenarios merely because “they look real enough.” As an aside I have noted that a number of Nigerian and Zimbabwean productions have lowered the bar further. Actors simply type stuff to appear busy when either only the desktop is showing on the screen or the computer is completely off.
It appears those involved in the production of movies and TV shows are not willing to let something as trivial as facts, the truth or compilers and interpreters syntax stand in the way of a good yarn.
Picture via Oracle WTF.