Top 5 Things Movies Get Wrong About Computer Hackers

November 26, 2019
It doesn’t take a lot to figure out that Hollywood tends to stretch things. But that’s fine. After all, most of us watch movies to get away from reality, even if only for a brief moment.

Deep down inside, many fancy the idea of retreating to another realm of existence where the possibilities are endless.

Becoming a superhero doesn’t seem achievable in real life. But there are certain things the movies touch upon that also happen to exist in reality. Hacking, for instance. Then the question presents itself — what if one were to learn how to hack in real life?

Putting the morality of it aside, there are a couple of notable differences between reality and how popular culture depicts hacking. It boils down to the following misconceptions.

1. You Won’t Break a Sweat Doing It

Oh, so wrong. The movies make it seem like hacking is about as difficult as following a manual and putting together a Lego sculpture. But a simple Google search won’t make you a hacker.

While the knowledge is undoubtedly out there, it’s going to take a lot of studying, processing, and experimenting to get it right. And let’s not even get started on the safety of these experiments.

Trying to break into a corporate machine right from the get-go will get you in trouble as soon as something goes wrong. And since hacking is illegal in most countries, you’re also looking at possible jail time. Plus, hacking involves expensive tools and scripts you need to buy. Even then, success is far from guaranteed.

2. Hackers Only Target Large Corporations

Getting through the cybersecurity defenses of a large corporation will indeed make a hacker’s efforts profitable in one way or another. But regular Joes and Janes Smith are on the digital hit list too. As such, protecting yourself by using an antivirus, VPN, and other tools from a cybersecurity toolbox goes a long way.

Going after low-hanging fruit tends to be easier than butting one’s head against an almost impenetrable login screen. And if you’re careless enough to not do anything for the sake of staying safe, you, too, could find yourself among their victims.

3. Once You Have the Knowledge, It’s a Walk in the Park

False. Even experienced hackers spend a considerable amount of time studying their target before they can crack the code and get in.

More often than not, hackers rely on cybersecurity vulnerabilities to do the work. Opportunities open up as a result of webmasters and administrators not updating their operating systems or platforms as often as they should. But even then, prepare yourself for a study session that’s bound to take a while.

In other cases, hackers don’t exploit software vulnerabilities per se. Instead, they prey on a lack of knowledge or carelessness of the ones operating the systems. For instance, having the name of your pet as a password is one of them.

4. There’s On-Screen Action All The Time

In reality, hacking can be as tedious as doing the dishes. Developed a virus or a worm? Sometimes, you’re going to be sitting around and killing time while you’re waiting for it to spread. Breaking into a website can require studying its source code in detail. In practice, it means staring at the screen and trying to find a flaw in its code for hours on end.

Then, once you find it (and that’s still an ‘if’), you need to develop a custom-made piece of software to take it down. And test it, get rid of the bugs, and all the other tedious parts of making it happen.

5. Giant Corporations Are Incompetent When It Comes to Cybersecurity

You wish. Large corporations tend to have quite a budget to spend on a top-notch cybersecurity team. It’s a safe bet they know more about hacking than many amateur hackers do. In fact, being able to defend against hackers takes being a decent hacker of your own.

In some cases, hackers resort to techniques like social engineering to get the job done. Often, social engineering is far from anything coding-related. Taking advantage of human naivete can be easier than barging through the digital front door. And it doesn’t take outsmarting your typical corporate cybersecurity department to do so. But, of course, it’s not as entertaining to show that in movies.

Conclusion

A hacker’s life looks far different than the way the popular culture tries to present it. Don’t be fooled by Hollywood’s creative minds. Hacking takes knowledge, effort, and can be as dull as any other job out there.

Plus, not only large corporations can become a victim of hacking. Small businesses and individuals are easier to hack, and they come in higher numbers of targets.

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