Cybercrime cinema: Hackers in Hollywood

Cybercrime cinema: Hackers in Hollywood

Cybercrime is a prevalent threat to businesses, thanks in part to hackers who break into computer systems, control them, steal information, and cause a lot of damage. A Clark School study at the University of Maryland revealed that a hacker attack occurs every 39 seconds.

While anyone can be a target, millennials (53%) are the usual victims, according to Symantec's Cyber Security Insights Report of 21,000 consumers worldwide. Panda adds that victims are sometimes chosen based on their social media accounts, which often contain plenty of information to create a social engineering attack.

Because art imitates life, it’s not surprising that hackers have found their way into cinema as well. Hollywood often portrays them as disgruntled individuals who want revenge or are politically motivated, but the truth is less glamorous.

Most hackers actually use wholly automated scripts to look for vulnerabilities in thousands of computers at the same time. And they don’t always wear hoods or work in dimly lit rooms either!

Nevertheless, movies about hackers can be fun. They may not always be accurate, but they certainly have an audience. Here are some of our favorites:

1. The Italian Job (1969)

One of the greatest British films of all time, this comedy caper tells the story of gang leader Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) leaving prison to stage one of the biggest heists in history: to steal $4 million in gold from the city of Turin.

Croker enlists the aid of powerful crime lord Mr. Bridger (Noel Coward in his last film role). With Bridger's help, Croker recruits computer hacker Professor Simon Peach (Benny Hill) together with a team of thieves and drivers.

Peach creates a computer program to mess up Turin's traffic system. He paralyzes the authorities with a massive traffic jam, allowing the thieves to escape with the gold in three Mini Cooper S getaway cars.

2. WarGames (1983)

In this Cold War-era film, young hacker David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) is a high school student who uses his computer to change his grades and those of his classmate Jennifer Mack (Ally Sheedy). While searching for computer games, he breaks into an unidentified system that has chess, checkers, backgammon, and “Global Thermonuclear War".

He tries out the latter, playing as the Soviet Union. Unknown to Lightman, he has actually hooked up with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) supercomputer War Operation Plan Response (WOPR). WOPR was initially controlled by humans until John McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) and other systems engineers automated it to react quickly in case of an emergency.

The film’s protagonist gets into the spirit of the “game” by launching a massive first strike with missiles, submarines, and bombers. Believing that Lightman’s actions are real and constitute a threat, WOPR prepares to retaliate, initiating a countdown to launch nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union and start World War III.

3. Swordfish (2001)

Hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is on parole after penetrating the FBI’s surveillance program. He longs for more time with his daughter Holly, but can’t do anything because she lives with his ex-wife and he is penniless.

Along the way, Jobson meets two shady individuals who offer him $10 million to help get his daughter back. In return, the troubled hacker has to create a computer worm to steal $9.5 billion in illegal government funds.

4. Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

This thriller is the fourth installment in the Die Hard film series. As in previous films, New York City detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) again appears in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, he is pitted against cyberterrorists headed by former National Security Agency (NSA) agent Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant).

The group aims to cripple America’s computer infrastructure via a fire sale, a three-stage coordinated attack to shut down the country's transportation, telecommunications, financial, and utilities systems.

To thwart the baddies, McClane turns to hacker Matthew “Matt” Farrell (Justin Long), who was originally recruited by the terrorists but is now being targeted by assassins. Enraged, Gabriel kidnaps the detective’s estranged daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) whom he threatens to kill.

Cybercriminals are not Hollywood fiction and spell real trouble for your company. Don’t give them the chance to hack your network. Protect your precious data with the help of Capstone IT. We are a trusted managed IT services provider that protects many small businesses in the Rochester and Buffalo areas. Consult us today for peace of mind!

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