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Hacking Movies Then and Now

The threat of cybercrime is one that constantly keeps us on our toes when we’re online, but it’s also something that movie directors have used to keep us on the edge of our seats over the years.

Ever since the dawn of the Internet and then the World Wide Web as Tim Berners-Lee called theorised in the 1980s, the concept of hacking is one that’s fascinated script writers and movie directors. Indeed, the first major movie to feature hacking was WarGames in 1983.

Starring Matthew Broderick, this pre-Windows movie saw David (played by Broderick) use an IMSAI 8080 and a 300 baud modem to tap into the military’s computer system, treat it like a game and almost start World War III.

From Simple to Complex

As you’d expect, the “hacking” scenes were fairly rudimentary by today’s standards.

In fact, according to Kaspersky, 34.2% of computer users experienced at least one web attack in 2015 and, today, viruses such as ransomware and infected plug-ins are threatening individuals, companies and networks. Essentially, with web browsers being exploited through methods such as cross site scripting (a virus that basically injects malicious code into a web application), more people are now at risk than ever.

Of course, the people behind WarGames could never foresee that hacking would not only become so complex, but so personal. In their minds, hacking was a way to take down governments and get at the people that way.

Today, however, hacking can take a number of forms. Whether it’s someone targeting a specific individual’s computer or a team using XSS to infect a web application and exploit vulnerable users of that product, hacking is now a multi-faceted beast.

The Narrative Shift

That’s probably the main difference between hacking movies of the past and hacking movies of today.

The methods used by hackers are always going to change; however, when you compare WarGames or another classic, Hackers (1995), to the 2013 release, Goodbye World, you can see a difference in tone. No longer is it tech geeks taking on “the man,” it’s now terrorist organisations looking to destroy the world.

Goodbye World actually looks at the world after the terrorists have taken hold and left the world a baron and desolate place.

The only apparent survivors are a couple and their daughter who live “off grid” away from the modern world. After surviving the attack (a mass text message which crippled computer systems and set off major attacks), the characters reflect on the world they knew and the future as it should be.

The Cyber Crime Genre is Here to Stay

What we can see from hacking movies from then until now is a shift in narrative from closet geeks exploring a new world, to malicious criminals affecting our world. Essentially, hacking movies went from fun and slightly kitsch, to disturbingly realistic and relevant.

Naturally, depending on your personal preferences the evolution of the genre will either be a good thing or a bad thing. For us, it’s interesting to see how hacking is now a topic that more people are familiar with even though the techniques used by hackers have become more advanced than most will appreciate.

Regardless of that fact, the cyber criminal genre is one that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, so we can look forward to seeing how things evolve in the coming years as hackers become even more advanced.

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