WarGames really nails the solo bedroom hacker of the 80s but then mixes in the DoD and general purpose AI to turn it into a coldwar thriller.
Sneakers is a clever, quirky, thoughtful adult hacking film.
Hackers though, teenage me ate up the feeling of the hacking culture that it espoused. When I read cyperpunk books, I pictured the environment and characters as places and people who could have come from this world. The sort of irreverent, authority denouncing, cybervandalism spoke to me. The Warez, Demoscen, ANSI art scenes all seemed to sort of be a kind of foundation that created a universe that this movie made manifest.
When this movie came out, I was still telneting, BBSing and gophering around "cyberspace". As soon as I found a writeable folder on an ftp server I'd make hidden folders and upload crap and tell all my friends. We'd stay up late wardialing and playing this soundtrack. We'd telnet to random IP addresses and then get excited when we'd hit a VAX system, just like in the movie.
It formed a kind of social scaffolding my nerd friends and I hung our digital world off of.
It's kind of laughable in many ways now, like many teen counter culture movement. But it still holds a special place in my heart.
It's not exactly a sophisticated effort (using a wardialer and guessing a backdoor password), but it's far better and more realistic than the majority of movie-style "hacking" scenes.
Sneakers, by contrast, has some interesting depictions of social engineering, as well as the amusingly low-tech yet effective approach of "point a camera at someone's hands while they type a password" (which remains a realistic danger today).
Hackers is dripping in 80s cheese, but that was what made it fun. And it captures how people thought hacking worked and what kinds of things people thought it could do: type something into a computer and take over a city's streetlights.
WarGames was another case of life imitating art imitating life, when the over-the-top NORAD command center set (the director called it "NORAD's wet dream of itself") became the blueprint for command centers everywhere going nuts with monitors.
A NORAD commander is quoted there: "A few years later, I was an executive officer with the Air Force Space Command stationed at Norad near Cheyenne Mountain. And I'm wondering, 'Gee, where can we get such cool-looking displays?' It was a good forcing function. It required us to all of a sudden say, 'If it really can look like this, why doesn't it?'"
Hackers is dripping in 80s cheese
In Ex Machina the main character appears writes a field sieve in Python to break some crypto. The code doesn't actually do that but it's still decent.
A bunch of older movies featured nmap.
The Net http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113957/
Who Am I http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3042408/
The Net always came across to me as a movie made by people who had never touched a computer. Without knowing what to write about (and after exhausting as many technical inaccuracies as possible) it just turns into a run of the mill thriller. It's kind of painful to watch. Hackers tosses out some jargon, but lots of the actual computer interaction stuff is completely obfuscated and contained in the fantasy of the world itself.
Can't say I've seen the rest, but I've added them to my list!
If you don't document things yourself, you don't get to write history. There just isn't that much material out there of how things were. In hind-sight I also think it was more accurate than given credit for. Partly because a lot of the things it described, like phreaking, isn't a thing anymore. So technical accuracy is no longer that important.
The people who made the movie to some extent understood hacker culture better than the hackers themselves. They realized that it wasn't the technical details that was important, but describing the sentiment among hackers. Otherwise they could have made a movie about security researchers at Microsoft.
PS. Regarding hacking traffic lights, back in the day you could supposedly flash a light at the same frequency as emergency vehicles to turn the lights green, or at least that's what the textfiles said.
I read an advertisement for a red light camera system that offered this as a feature (traffic management for emergency vehicle (EV) ingress and egress) it had the feature that you had to have red and blue lights, so it wasn't fooled easily by civilians.
They actually quote the researcher that figured out the flaws, apparently in SF the lights are still unpatched.
Of course it had to be "inaccurate" to show visually what that feels like without it being super boring. It glorifies a particular set of attitudes and styles that many of us were a part of in that era.
In much the same way, Hackers had to do something to depict how we felt about computers at the time. I remember thinking how silly it looked at the time but I also remember it resonating.
Though, I have to say, I was much more inspired by Sneakers a few years earlier which was much more accurate from a visual and technical standpoint.
In fact, they weren't monstrous at all. No more than any other army.
One overlooked factoid in 300 is that despite all the "we fought for FREEDOM!" stuff, the Greek city-states were slave-keeping societies (and Sparta was friendly with infanticide), whereas the Persians invading them were Zoroastrian - a religion that forbids slavery. :)
I don't know that it was particularly more accurate (at least the device in question), but I think it was certainly closer.
It always amused the hell out of me that they had Matthew Lillard playing Emmanuel Goldstein. They should have cast Steve Buscemi.
Good soundtrack, even if the film did make me cringe. When it came out I was knee deep in oodles of Perl on a shit-hot upgraded SPARCstation 10 machine (not camo painted I will add). Whacked the soundtrack in my external caddied CD drive and plugged my headphones in, then spent 2 hours of frigging #defines trying to get the fucking thing to compile a CD player that worked on SunOS 4 OpenView that I'd downloaded off Usenet via a 14.4k Hayes SmartModem (which I still own)
And that piece of crap cost more than my car at the time...
Edit: I just realised one piece of tech I still use daily survived from back then; a lowly TI-85 calculator.
I bought a massive fully stacked Sun Enterprise 1000E and storage array in 2001 in a crazy nostalgia trip. £500,000 of kit and I got it off yahoo auctions for £350 and it was only 5 years old. That's depreciation for you. It was noisy, made the lights dim when you booted it up and wouldn't run anything other than old Solaris releases so it was used as a seat for a bit then sold.
I think I'm out of anecdotes now :)
It must have been a year or two later that I wired a doorbell between DTR (I think) and CTS on a Sparc workstation, with a program that broadcast a UDP packet to a Tcl/Tk program running on multiple lab machines whenever tcdrain() unblocked.
There's a whole thread on Usenet somewhere with me complaining about this. I tried to find it but couldn't now unfortunately as it would be funny :)
At any rate, I can confirm that the "pool on the roof" myth is indeed alive and well. Upperclassmen used to try and sell "pool keys" to incoming students for $10 each. Absurd as that was, there was a thriving market for escalator keys - to turn on or off the many escalators in the 10-story building - so it wasn't that far-fetched.
I've heard similar criticism of William Gibson's work, that his 1980s-flavored cyberpunk makes no sense scientifically now. And that's true. But it still completely works as a fantasy world.
>Set in the near future, huge megacorporations control and dominate entire economies. Their wealth and competitive advantage reside in the human capital of their employees and the intellectual property they produce. Corporations jealously guard their most valuable employees and go to great expense to keep them safe and happily productive. There is little point in traditional corporate espionage as new products are developed at a lightning pace; there is no time to capitalize on the intelligence acquired from a rival firm, it will be obsolete before it can be used. Companies now hire extraction agents to steal each other's top productive employees.
One of the early on episodes actually has a character musing aloud if some screen writer is making the next Hackers to incorrectly portray this generations technologist. As they watch Hackers on TV in a hotel. A bit tongue in check, because the show itself is doing exactly that.
It's actually quite good and surprisingly "accurate" on the technology bits and even some of the personalities.
Granted, that one's more about the cold war than about hacking, but Swordfish is more about... um... I'm not exactly sure what that one's about...
Ferris Bueller's Day Off deserves more credit than swordfish on social engineering alone!
I can also certainly can relate to the portion of the audience that found phreaking much more interesting than hacking and the fact that the phreaking scene is all but dead is pretty sad.
Awesome quote. Computers/programming/"hacking" were definitely a mind-expanding experience for me as a teen. While "grown ups" saw a boring beige box, the machine felt alive with limitless possibilities to me.
There was a quote from Softley in the Art of the Title article about the opening titles http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/hackers/ where he says it was a Bridge. Being of a certain age, this totally was part of it. It was for the most part the peak of the modem/bbs days... and there was a transition between the more analog days to the real digital days, the days of the internet - where alot of the hacker culture, and things like the demo scene etc...became diluted.
Anyways, never took it that seriously, I mean the characters alone are so out there, but it was inspiring from the whole computer thing to the music (legendary soundtrack, introducing a lot of ravey/UK type stuff to ppl, on the cusp of the whole electronica thing) and just the 90s nostalgia/tech nostalgia - it's great!
And come on! Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller alone...the former going on to such massive success....
He said they failed at their market research - they tried to make something that appealed to parents, but neglected to see what kids actually wanted(to have things like the adults do). American kids knew it wasn't a real phone, and rejected it. Their parents then got them a flip phone instead of a "kiddie phone".
"It's a phone."
"No it's not! Where's the screen?"
I grinned and told him it has no screen, he was baffled as to how to use it.
DUKE (V/O): Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas.
(he gets up, pours himself a drink.)
DUKE (V/O): Has it been five years? Six? It seems like a lifetime -- the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. But no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense
of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.
DUKE throws open the curtains. Light streams in.
Ext. 1965 Stock Footage: We are in San Francisco.
Images of the time flood in.
DUKE (V/O): There was madness in any direction, at any hour... you could strike sparks anywhere there was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle -- that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. our energy would simply prevail.
We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
DUKE's face is suffused with a sadness and serenity we have never seen before.
DUKE (V/O): So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark -- that place where the wave finally
broke and rolled back.
The memories dissolve into the night skyline of Vegas.
DUKE closes the curtain. The room is in darkness again.
Funny side story: I grew up in LA and one of the things we got to do as teenagers was see pre-screenings of movies. This was usually before they were finished and rated, as a way for them to tweak the final product.
Hackers was one of those movies. They didn't change much except that Angelina Jolie unzips her jacket all the way to show her breasts. They cut the scene most likely to get their PG-13 rating, but 20 years later that scene is horribly sexist and a sign of the times.
IIRC, (and I may not RC) that scene is Jolie and Miller engaging in sexual role-play. A few moments later, we cut to what's actually going on: the pair is making out on a bed, and their friends have just walked in to deliver good news, but are currently gawping at the spectacle. Jolie notices the gawpers, gets up, calls them something off-color, and we get to hear the good news.
Is my memory of the scene dramatically off the mark, or am I missing the sexism?
Moreover, it's pretty important for accessible examples of people engaging in healthy, sex-positive sexual activities to exist. There's a lot of repression, shaming, and misinformation out there about a thing that's -when done with a little bit of forethought and care- pretty fun.
Reasonable people may disagree, but that those are my opinions on the matter.
Thanks Steven. (And Greg.)
And in a few ways it was accurate: it predicted (perhaps inspired?) the rise of case-modding.
The modem, hacking the phone companies, motivated by curiosity and paying no mind to whether or not one is breaking any rules, military misuse of technology, programs being used to ends not intentioned by its creator, command line, hacking alone, physical infrastucture comtrolled by software.
I mean, it had it all!
I also like "Hackers 2"/"Takedown" despite the various controversies (the book being a rip off of another book, the script being a rip off, both book and script being factually inaccurate etc).
Still now that Mitnicks own autobiography is out, while the movie might not be a kind treatment of him, or his friends. I still think it's quite a good hacker film, with some traces of accurancy (think "inspired by true events" rather than "based on").
Btw, the name "Hackers 2" was just an attempt at marketing - the two films have nothing to do with each other.
I haven't revisited it since Snowden happened, but I really ought to.
If you haven't rewatched it in a while, it's worth watching again.
If you do that, the whole thing makes a lot more sense.
It is a little bit relevant in a post that is replying to another post that says nothing in Sneakers is impossible.
Heck, even having it try to decrypt the packet(s) in a distributed manner with $ALL_THE_KEYS that might have already been collected via nefarious means, and then return the key + plaintext that is most likely, certainly seems possible if the box was created by someone with the resources of the NSA.
I would be extremely surprised if someone were not already working on (or had not already created) something very much like that.
It has to be a breakthrough in factoring large numbers very quickly, like what quantum computers are promised to be. So maybe possible after all, I guess. It's also very clearly a device, not an algorithm, so probably not a Von Neumann machine.
Not all, just protocols used in the west. From the script:
"Your codes are entirely different from ours.
We never had any luck in breaking them so Lord knows, I wanted that box..."
Imagine heartbleed implemented on a RPi in a box.
And if nothing else, it's a science-fiction thought experiment: what effect would such a box have?
Considering the current cryptographic protocols we use, a quantum computer would serve rather effectively as such a box. Then again, considering the positioning of cryptography at the time ("export-grade crypto", anyone?), so would a special-purpose ASIC designed to brute-force keys.
Robert Redford, Sydney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, River Phoenix, James Earl Jones, Dan Aykroyd... probably more, but that's 3 Oscar winners, and a fourth with a nomination in there alone...
Don't forget Ben Kingsley, another Oscar winner.
As for the accuracy of the film, I don't really have much to say. I don't expect films to be "too" accurate, if they were they would be called "documentaries". It's cool to see Gibson they way it was and them turning traffic lights green etc.
I think Hollywood should reboot it for the modern times.
They had a "Hack the Planet" message in that movie.
It's time for a Jeri Ellsworth biopic anyway. With Flying biology books and car racing!!!
nc z.ero.cool 1337
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pxb5YrDjDZ8 "New York - The City that never sleeps"...
sound potentially important, hurried.. and desperate for a favour- and people will try to help
Realistic or not, it's a great example of how technology is never stronger than its weakest link, and often that link is human.
We used both versions depending on context (twenty eight point eight and twenty eight eight). Might be an age thing though, I was post teen years when the movie came out and tended to hang out with a lot of overly precise military members/geeks.
Did anyone ever have the "terminator" terminal program which had the hidden war dialer in it, which you accessed with the password "joshua"?
I still feel like an idiot at 40.
A hipster is mere a role-governed behavior with corresponding fashion and hairstyle.