Computer hacker films break logic code


MOST FILMS about computer hackers have more in common with The Lord of the Ringsthan real-life hacking, a science week event in Dublin heard yesterday.

Over 200 Junior Cert students attended the Hackers and Hollywoodtalk given by Damian Gordon, a former computer hacker and now a lecturer in Dublin Institute of Technology’s school of computing.

“People who make movies don’t know very much about science. They are artists and creative people – the bus in the movie Speedactually breaks two laws of physics in the scene where it jumps the bridge,” said Mr Gordon.

“The majority of hackers in real life come from within the industry itself. In a lot of movies, students are portrayed as hackers which is interesting . . . Some movies do a good job, but most do not.”

Mr Gordon showed how hacker movies follow a tried-and-tested format similar to Lord of the Ringsor Excaliburwhere a young hero gets a magical item and is guided by a wise figure before fighting evil. “ War Games(1983) is just the same. David connects with a special computer, is helped by Dr Falken and has to defeat the evil programme,” he said.

Independence Day(1996) was highlighted for its leap of faith when a Mac computer managed to hack the alien system and save the day. “Anyone who has changed from one version of Windows to another will know the trouble with compatibility and how unlikely it is you’d be able to hack what the aliens have.” The former hacker did acknowledge that films can have an inspiring effect on young people.

“The 1980s were the golden generation of hacker movies. Tron, in 1982, was the reason I first got into computing,” he said. “Unfortunately, in real life we don’t get to make millions.

“Also in the movies, it all happens in about 90 seconds . . . they aren’t left with programmes running overnight.”