In honor of this weeks spy coverage, I wanted to set my sights on something that has bothered me for years and years and figures in to about 97% of any spy movie made since the invention of the computer. That rage inducing bit of cinema wankery is computer technicians, hackers, super sleuths, or whatever you want to call them, instantly being able to hack into any system, anywhere, at any time and access whatever is relevant to the plot.
I’m just wondering, before computers and the internet and secret online databases what did people do? Root through file cabinets I guess. Some honest to goodness get down and dirty. These days, all you need is an Alt-Teen wearing a Ramones shirt and you’ve got instant access to every single government file ever uploaded into the system. Now we all hear every now and then how someone bypasses something so sure I guess some nerds out there are capable of infiltrating this stuff. I mean, the extent of my security protocols is just typing out my favorite porn stars name into the password field. Beyond that, once I try actually typing “password” as the password, I’m useless as a hacker.
But got some runaway gas that’s going to cause an explosion? Hack it! Hack the Department of Water and Power! Got some troublesome kids trying to foil your plan? Hack their grades! Delete the investigating detectives pensions! Bypass the main power grid! Status bar update! 97% Oh My God The Humanity! Seriously, Hollywood.
How about when they finally hack into the system as well? It opens up a really awesome and professional interface. Not lines and lines of machine code or an endless series of prompts, but a well designed and thought out graphical interface. I’m not sure if anyone here has done government work, but most of that stuff is still blinking green cursors in the Name field. I don’t think computers work this way.
Thankfully, a few spies have avoided this painful technique over the years – notably James Bond, though a lot of what he did happened before the computer’s domination. I don’t mind realistic looking things, like popping some sort of USB device in that can run some crazy algorithm at ten thousand times faster than the human finger can hit a key, but I do hate when some nerd sits down and just tap dances across the keyboard, disabling level after level of security and dodging pop up advertisements all at the same time. I mean, WTF is going on here?
I understand that every now and then you need a cheat to get around the plot and computers are an easy out, but let’s challenge ourselves here. Take a gamble on something else. Or hell, dig through a filing cabinet. Go old school Magnum PI on that stuff. Break a window, not Windows XP. Maybe hacking really is that easy and the world wide web is the tech nerds oyster, but I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough super hackers bypassing whatever the hell they need to and connecting directly into plotdevice.com. I’m past my 01001010010101 0101 0010 01010 boiling point on super spy computer hacking!