How computers are portrayed in movies and television.
Posted: April 7, 2012. At: 9:06 PM
The way that computer interfaces are portrayed in the movies and television shows has always been rather fanciful, with the computer users navigating a Graphical User Interface by typing madly on the keyboard. And the impossible CSI computers that can zoom into a 360p resolution video and see a persons face clearly, or a number plate on a car that is only a blurry mess. The Tron Legacy movie at least had realistic computer usage, with the computer user typing real commands on a UNIX machine. And he was playing the Towers of Hanoi game in the GNU/Emacs text editor. The Social Network also featured realistic computer usage, a far cry from the aforementioned CSI nonsense. The movie Swordfish was a good example of computer stupidity, with the protagonist able to crack into a remote machine using a whiz Bang fast computer in no time straight, with flashy graphics and very fast typing. That is not how you really would break into a computer system, that is usually accomplished by using vulnerabilities in the target systems` software and using various utilities to exploit those security holes and gain elevated access to the computer system. I guess a movie that accurately depicted the whole process of breaking into a secure computer system would be boring for the audience, the filmmakers prefer to use flashy GUI interfaces and computers that make a noise every time you press a key. That would drive you crazy if your real computer did that. Of course, if it was using the PC Speaker, you could either unplug it or desolder it carefully from the motherboard.
It would be good to see more movies like Tron Legacy that accurately depicted the usage of the UNIX operating system and the ps ef command used to track down an errant process and then using kill to kill the process. They showed the character using the GNU Emacs editor, would they make a movie where the character uses vi or nano? The soundtrack of the Tron Legacy movie is also very fitting. The Numb3rs television show has had many technological faux pas, such as the scene where they had to take the Subscriber Identity Module card out of a mobile telephone and they froze it before they took it out so it would not lose data! What the? There is a possibility that computer RAM could hold data when the RAM sticks are removed and inserted into another computer, this is said to be a possibility when the RAM is frozen. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/security/cryogenically-frozen-ram-bypasses-all-disk-encryption-methods/900. This is by freezing RAM with a can of compressed air used upside down, allowing the RAM to hold its data for up to a few hours allowing the forensic technician to recover encryption keys used for decrypting an encrypted disk partition such as the encrypted partitions allowed by modern Linux distributions. But this is quite an esoteric achievement though, but it can not be discounted as a possibility for gaining information from computers. The Backtrack Linux distribution includes RAM forensic tools for analyzing the contents of Random Access Memory.
This video I have added shows the Numb3rs television show and the character typing in an Internet Protocol address that starts with 275, when IP addresses go up to 255. But this show had the aforementioned SIM card idiocy as well. This is a consequence of targeting these shows to the general public who are wowed by the fast moving storyline and the arrests that are made in 22 minutes after a fast paced session in the lab in the case of the CSI Miami television show. I am aware they have to be careful and use an IP address that can not actually match a real one, that is why they used a 275.x.x.x format instead of 203.x.x.x, that is common sense, I have not watched the actual episode, so I am not sure what he is attempting with his C++ code, I would guess he is tracing the IP address back to the source, which could be achieved with the traceroute command for Linux. CSI is a hilarious show at times, it is best enjoyed when you do not take the show seriously and just go with the flow instead. I am watching a CSI NY episode right now and the lab technician had a manual typewriter connected to a computer as a mechanical keyboard. I am not sure what to think about that. I have seen something similar in a Ghost in the Shell movie. I would love to have something like that, it would be very cool indeed. There are mechanical keyboards available, but not like the keyboard I want. But the typewriter in CSI had paper in it and all, so how was the input getting to the computer? ;(