Hollywood films depict hackers...

...as hoodie-wearing young men furiously typing on a keyboard while lines of code steam down the computer screen. Cue the intense music playing in the background. After a few dramatic seconds, the hacker says “I’m in.” with a smirk.

Hollywood has to keep audiences engaged, so it glamorizes and amps the excitement of cyber crime. The films ‌take advantage of audiences' lack of knowledge about IT and cybersecurity to portray the hackers as geniuses adept at navigating the complicated online world. 

Dozens of films throughout the years feature hackers. The following movies come to mind: Jurassic Park, Independence Day, The Matrix, Charlie’s Angels, The Social Network, Ex Machina, Snowden, Ocean’s 8, Enemies of the State, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.


Is really hacking that fast? 

Films speed up the hacking process to keep the viewers entertained. Hacking in movies produces near-instant results, but hacking into a system can take weeks or even months depending on the difficulty and the planning needed. Hackers need to take the time to gather information about the system they want to hack into, conduct research about the organization, and test for vulnerabilities. Finding those vulnerabilities takes time.


Can hacking be ethical?

The hackers in films usually have a good reason for what they are doing. They are trying to find valuable information to save someone from a terrible fate or take down a villain. Movies often paint the act as justified, and hacking seems like a crime without innocent victims. That is far from the truth. A data breach can affect countless citizens and businesses, cost sizeable sums of money, damage businesses’ reputations, and leave citizens feeling unsafe knowing their information was compromised.


How much coding is involved in hacking?

When people envision hacking, they may recall the iconic image of a string of green lines of code from the Matrix movies. In reality, the most common tactics cyber criminals use are phishing and social engineering methods. Cyber criminals use various kinds of bots and fake emails in an attempt to trick people into clicking a link or sharing personal information. There are also pre-built malware programs that are available for purchase — no coding skills needed. 


Who is the average hacker?

It looks like movies are pretty close to the truth with this one. The average hacker is male and under the age of 34. They may or may not be wearing a hoodie. Hackers operate from over 70 different countries, with most hackers hailing from India, the U.S., and Russia. A report from HackerOne revealed that 72% of hackers do it for money with others saying they do it for fun or that they thrive on the challenge. 


The exciting life of a hacker?

Unless a company hired the hacker to work as an “ethical hacker” — helping the business locate its vulnerabilities before the “bad guys” do — hacking is illegal. Hacking may look exciting on the big screen, but in reality, it’s a tedious process that would make for a boring film. Can’t blame Hollywood for spicing it up!

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