Hollywood is seen as the movie capital of the world, and for good reason. Hollywood films grossed almost $11 billion (U.S.) in 2012. By comparison, India’s film industry, affectionately nicknamed Bollywood, grossed a meager $1.6 Billion (U.S.) the same year (although a 1-to-1 comparison is misleading, based on the difference in value between the two nations’ currencies). When it comes to the number of films produced each year, however, Bollywood is on top! According to a 2012 report, Bollywood produced 1,602 films, the U.S. did 476 and China 745. In that same year, Hollywood sold a 1.36 billion tickets, while Bollywood sold an amazing 2.6 billion. Clearly movies are a big hit in India.
Another big hit in India is IT, especially IT in the movies. With more than 9,000 tweets, and almost 2.5 million emails sent per second (watch it here), social media is a huge factor contributing to the increased presence of IT in the movies. In the past couple of years, a number of movies based on social networking, hacking and other tech concepts have been released in India, and although such movies are a novelty for spectators they have been well received by the Indian audience.
Although featured prominently in movies, IT is often done incorrectly or in such a manner as to be completely unbelievable. Scenes featuring hackers, programmers and security specialists are often just thrown into movies without any effort at realism. For some people, a computer is a scary and magical box. Those people easily assume that wondrous things are possible when Bollywood portrays IT doing wondrous things. Here are some of the sillier IT scenarios that regularly appear in movies:
Everything is Online
In this scenario, a hacker can hack into and reprogram anything from an office building’s heating and cooling system, to the military’s newest secret weapon. This is foolish because neither computer would be online in a manner that allows outsiders to hack in — they are usually in closed systems.
While more systems are being connected to the internet all the time, it is a bit of a stretch to assume that everything is connected. This is especially true for critical infrastructure and military networks. Otherwise we would have endless incidents of hackers messing with our traffic lights and door locks.
This is the mistaken representation of some really cool sounding hacking. Usually there lots of arcane words and phrases are thrown about. Things like, “I’m going to brute force the Easter egg to DDOS the script kiddie and coagulate the firewall.” Who even really knows what that means?
Another situation that often plays out on screen is hacking through a Graphical User Interface (GUI). This is shown as a really cool looking user-friendly interface, often a small figure moving through a maze and eventually bursting through the firewall to leave an image of a skull and crossbones. There will always be bright flashes of light and clicking sounds as well.
Both of these are completely false. Hacking doesn’t look or sound cool. In the first place, most passwords are gathered through simple phishing with emails that look like they are from legitimate organizations, banks, PayPal and so forth. Or from adware: “Oh! Beautiful women who want to meet me.” You open the e-mail and “boom” — the hacker has easy access to your system.
This also often happens with a simple phone call from an outside hacker: “Hi, this is Raj in accounting. I need to verify access to the network. Please spell your password out. Also, what is your employee number, birthdate, address, and so forth?”
In the second instance, hacking never involves a GUI — it’s always typing commands into a command line interface. No cool graphics. Just boring words that aren’t even spelled completely or correctly.
This is the scene where one hacker is trying to break into a system and another is trying to keep him out. These scenes are packed with obscure hacking jargon (particularly if there are others watching the hackers fight it out) and lots of cool numbers, phrases and images scrolling across the screen.
This situation always ends with an attempt to “back trace” the attacking hacker, which will usually only work if the movie is about to end. In reality, if your computer is being targeted by a hacker, then it’s much easier to just unplug it from the power supply. Just make certain you unplug the computer, not the monitor.
IPv4 Addresses are always wrong
This is a big pet peeve and it happens all the time. Typically the authorities are pursuing a bad guy and tracing his location through the IP address. At the crucial moment, immediately after the computer geek says, “Got you!” the address will appear in the screen.
The address is always wrong. IPv4 addresses come in octets. An octet’s highest value is 255. Any number 256 or up is a false IP address. Maybe when the victim dies, or the bomb explodes, it’s because the computer geek forget the highest value of an octet?
Quick & Easy Searches of the Internet
Movie and TV characters are always able to find exactly they need on the Net with just a few clicks. Usually they are in a situation where they are racing against the clock and need to know the local delivery schedule of a foreign manufacturer of high-end sneakers — which their suspect just happens to wear. A few clicks and one easy search later, the hero is on her way to apprehend the bad guy.
In reality the Internet is huge. By 2017 it will exceed one zettabyte of new content per year. If you don’t know what a zettabyte is, consider this: The Internet, if printed out, would be as long as 74.6 million copies of the entire Harry Potter series — all seven books, word for word, 74.6 million times!
One doesn’t just hop on and search it with ease and speed. How do you even know you are typing names and such correctly? One slip and the investigators can find themselves lost in a maze of, at best, millions of unhelpful hits.
Clearly Bollywood, like Hollywood before it, is enamored with the image and use of IT to make movies and programs interesting.
Conclusion: IT is not black magic
The skewed portrayal of IT can too often give the impression of all-powerful computer jocks and cause technophobic audiences to believe their information is an open book to hackers with a few key strokes. Even more tragic, is that such portrayals can foster a silly belief that computers are arcane, mysterious, and undiscoverable things for use only by techies. IT is for everyone. To think otherwise is to shut oneself off from the great Age of Information.