Has your mom ever called in a panic, saying the computer was displaying a weird error message and that she hurried and unplugged it just to be safe--and then dunked it in the bathtub so it wouldn't burn the house down?
It makes you realize that, to some people, a computer is still a terrifying box of mysteries. Well, we think Hollywood writers have those people in mind when they portray laptop computers doing everything short of blowing up the moon.
After all, according to the movies...
5You Can Blow Up Shit At Will With Hacking
Worst Offender: Live Free or Die Hard
The movie' villain, Thomas Gabriel, and his band of hackers are so good at hacking that they've gained the powers of an all-seeing and all-knowing God:
"OK, I want you to hack into that traffic light and make it red. Good. Now, I want you to hack into Kevin Smith' basement and physically move his webcam around the room. Now, hack into the brain of that fighter pilot and get him to shoot missiles into the middle of a busy freeway."
Hacking is to this movie what magic is in the Harry Potter stories: plot-hole spackle. All the gaping cracks in logic between scene A to scene C can be neatly smoothed over with the mystical power of hack. The improbability reaches critical mass, though, when the bad guys hack into the natural-gas lines near a power plant and make them spontaneously explode under the streets.
Why It's Ridiculous:
Look, we acknowledge that Bruce Willis movies take place in a universe where every object is teetering on the brink of spontaneous detonation (see Armageddon, wherein the bolt on a valve handle breaks, causing an entire space station to erupt in an enormous fireball). Still, if natural-gas safety precautions were so poor that entire city blocks could explode via broadband modem, we're certain the guys at 4chan would have done it by now.
In Real Life
Gabriel would make his insane demands to his hackers who, in turn, would snort derisively and call him a n00b. An hour later, 30 unwanted pizzas would turn up, mysteriously ordered under his name from Pizza Hut' online order form, while the hackers giggle and high-five each time the doorbell rings.
4Hacking Will Let You Steal Any Damned Thing You Want
Worst Offender: Swordfish
The presumed abilities of computers are fairly well detailed in the actual tagline of this movie: "Log on. Hack in. Go anywhere. Steal everything." And, that' no exaggeration. If you watch the movie, you'll realize that's exactly what the filmmakers believe. John Travolta' villain in Swordfish is Gabriel Shear (wait, wasn't the Die Hard bad guy named Gabriel, too?) and his scheme was to steal $9.5 billion from the U.S. government. With hacking.
Why It's Ridiculous:
The entire premise of the plot is that in the vast, computerized world of modern finance, $9.5 billion could slip through the cracks so that a clever hacker could, with hacking, transfer it to his own account unnoticed. This sounds plausible to some, because almost all the money exists only in computers (not even 10% percent of our money exists as printed currency) and it seems like that would make it easier to steal.
We assure you, wherever there is $9.5 billion, there are several people who will fucking notice if it's gone. In a world full of brilliant, real-life hackers, the reason the money doesn't continually vanish from your checking account is because there are equally brilliant people working on the other side.In Real Lifeâ�¦
Shear's entire plan was to steal the money so he could use it to run an underground anti-terror organization. We're pretty sure all that takes is writing a letter to your congressman and saying, "I would like $9.5 billion to run an underground anti-terror organization." The check should arrive within four to six weeks.