Everything Is Online

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Nice try hackers, but if you want to turn my electric devices against me, you're going to have to get past the big layer of fat on my fat head! Your teleprompter is ours Colbert! Damn it hackers!

Stephen Colbert (reading from his hacked teleprompter)

If it's a computer, then it's vulnerable. Period.

A Cracker or Playful Hacker can cause unlimited harm/mischief in the TV world because any computer, or any device with a CPU as a component (or even with a few strands of copper wire in it) is connected to the Internet and thus becomes easily accessible and subvertible to the character's hacking skill. Everything from NORAD to the engine computer on your SUV can be tampered with and shut down from a laptop in a room thousands of miles away. This openly defies the fact that in neither case are said computers actually online in a way that is reachable by someone on a modem.

TV writers make no distinction between the Internet and the closed intranets used by governments, the military, or private companies. Nor do they apparently understand the fact that a lot of computers (like the ones in most cars) are closed systems that are responsible only to themselves, and are physically incapable of contacting outside networks at all, let alone receive remote instructions from some malicious techie.

This being said, writers were probably just getting a bit ahead of themselves as this is increasingly becoming Truth in Television. As ubiquitous internet connectivity becomes essential for almost any electronic gadget or device everything from cars [1] to military networks will become increasingly hackable via the internet. Even without an explicit internet connection many devices have varying types of wireless functionality which, to a skilled adversary, are as good as an internet connection.

While one would assume that any security sensitive computer system would avoid being connected to anything, most users and Sys-Admins will fight to the death to avoid complicating their Windows Updates and G-Mail access so most computer systems end up attached to the internet. Even control units for critical infrastructure now only come with an RJ-45 connector and a hard coded ability to speak IP. Very few organizations have the resources or the will construct their own air-gap networks so all the traffic flows over the public Internet or telecommunications networks protected by VPNs and Firewalls. Finally, even if a system is air-gapped properly, this is still not a complete guarantee of security, as famously demonstrated by Stuxnet, which is thought to have spread to Iranian nuclear facilities through USB drives.

Still there still remain some gross exaggerations like the ability to erase a person's existence by deleting his identity records. In Hollywood reality, physical records like paper birth certificates and driver licenses are always null and void if the computers can't find a digital copy.[2] Your friends and family will apparently forget you were ever born if the e-records are deleted.[3]

This trope is usually how an Evil Computer manages to subjugate humanity: By shutting down or reprogramming everything electrical in the world, from nuclear missiles to street cameras to light bulbs.

Of course in a series set in the Present Day (or just twenty minutes from now) it might make sense to assume that most things have a connection of some kind, despite that no matter how networked the world gets, there will always be systems kept offline for security reasons.

Compare It's a Small Net After All. Also See Plug N Play Technology

Examples of Everything Is Online include:

Anime and Manga

  • Ed in Cowboy Bebop retaliates against a pair of ISSP policemen who try to apprehend her by hacking into their ship's auto-pilot and took it for a joy ride, and accidentally crashed it. (Fortunately for them, she's a Playful Hacker and does it while it's parked outside with no-one in it). In the same episode, Ed also hacks into the access to a spy satellite network, which was also online.
    • For the satellite it makes perfect sense to be online, since the only way to make connection to it would be communication satellite network in the first place. It's still presented as an incredibly challenging task, since the satellite doesn't have a direct connection to Internet, but has to be accessed by breaking into the concealed spy satellite network.
  • The basic premise of Corrector Yui is Magical Girls in an online world trying to fix things in the real world, including school trips, traffic lights and medical machinery.
  • In Serial Experiments Lain, everything is online, without exception, to the point that one of the catchphrases is: no matter where you go, everyone's connected. In fact, Lain once almost gets run over by a car, because of a failure in the citywide car guidance system. Considering that the first scene depicts someone uploading their consciousness to the internet by committing suicide, conventional electrical gadgets being connected to the internet isn't far-fetched by comparison.
    • The basic premise is basically this (minus the psychokinetic powers also present): human brains have electromagnetic vibrations in them as part of the neurons' functions. Planet Earth has ubiquitous electromagnetic resonance (called Schumann Resonance after its discoverer), which according to the series subtly affects the functions of the human brain. Somebody discovered how to manipulate the Schumann Resonance in a way that connects all people's minds subconsciously together without necessarily even relying on machines, which naturally are also affected.
  • Perhaps the SEELE attack on MAGI in End of Evangelion would have failed much sooner if NERV, instead of putting up firewalls in a Race Against the Clock, had simply disconnected the bloody thing from every line connected to the outside world.
    • The English dub translation for Iruel's invasion of the MAGI makes Ritsuko suggest that attempting to sever connections between different parts of MAGI or MAGI from anywhere else would require a matter of dismantling the Geofront (in the Japanese translation, she merely voices her concern about abandoning MAGI so swiftly).
    • Given that SEELE paid for the Geofront to be built in the first place, its entirely possible that they installed their own backdoor hard lines.
  • Satsuki, the hacker in X 1999, has a computer that is not only sentient and can hack into anything online, but it can actually electrically manipulate the power cords themselves to attack people. Even disconnecting the computer from the network doesn't help once she's got her claws in it.
    • Lampshaded when Satsuki steals Nataku's life support data. "We're being hacked and we aren't even on a network!"
  • Ghost in the Shell justifies this trope as making sense in a world where almost everyone you meet has a cybernetic implant connecting their brain wirelessly to the internet. Shown most prominently when the Laughing Man, on more than one occasion, hacks not only cameras but people's visual inputs to replace his face with his two-dimensional logo. In a Mind Screw moment, people will even remember and swear that the logo is the real face.
    • However, the trope is averted when logical. In the aforementioned Laughing Man incident, two homeless guys without any cybernetics are not affected. Not that they see particularly much. The military uses "autistic mode", meaning they turn off their wireless capability. Likewise certain facilities and networks are not connected to the broader net, forcing Section 9 to resort to more direct methods fairly often.
    • And then there is the case of "ghost hacks", where a person's natural personality and memory can be deleted/edited from a remote source. This is really, really hard however - less than half dozen individuals are seen capable of this in any version of the story.
    • The hackers fight in Man-Machine Interface involves someone disconnecting a vulnerable plug and using lasers to attack the satellites used by the other side to transmit info!
  • Nicely Averted in Cannon God Exaxxion; though each Artificial Human can hack into things like robots and space battle ships, they have to assimilate them with Nanomachines to do it.
  • Real Drive has this, although there are still some people without a cybernetic implant. It should be noted that it takes place in the same universe as Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed, so it makes sense that the series would experience some of the same issues addressed as the GITS entry above.
  • Digimon absolutely loves this trope. Apparently, the Digital World and Digimon can affect not merely computers and phone lines in the real world, but everything from microwaves to traffic lights to an entire house's electrical setup.
    • Averted, actually,as the Digital World isn't supposed to be the physical manifestation of the internet-it's the physical manifestation of all computer data. This is shown in Our War Game, where we actually see the Internet-it is a separate entity. Therefore, anything computerized-not online-can be affected.
  • Justified in Blame!. The Netsphere was designed as an on-line paradise and safe haven for any human with Net Terminal Genes, as well as a system with absolute control over near everything within The City.
    • Safeguards can even download themselves from the Netsphere into the physical work where they can construct bodies from the nearest random materials.
  • Summer Wars. Everything is connected to the online community of OZ up to and including major governments, large corporations, and traffic control. So when an account-stealing AI gets released into OZ...

Comic Books

Fan Works

  • Averted in Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, where the Grid is heavily regionally segmented, and the connection between these segmented parts is only allowed in specific timeslots under very heavy surveillance, all in the name of protection from the Migou, who can put any human master hacker to shame.
  • Averted and discussed in the "Teraverse" story Operation Eternal Flame by "Captain Boulanger": because a military officer needed to be able to say that his project's IT consultant (the "world's greatest hacker") wasn't in on everything, he ordered that the contact information for another consultant was intentionally kept in hard copies only. When it became necessary to call her in, one of his subordinates had to travel from Santa Barbara, CA to Roswell, NM, just to look in a file folder.


  • Terminator 3 is an example of the evil computer version—in this case, Skynet. Many of the electronic things it spreads through, like cash registers, aren't even supposed to be online, so the Terminator infects stuff with remote-control Nanomachines—and most cash registers actually do use the internet to transmit credit card information.
  • The heroes of Sneakers, with the super-chip they've just stolen, are able to access anything from the Federal Reserve to the national air-traffic control system.
    • Somewhat justified in that the chip was designed specifically to decrypt U.S. Federal Government systems. However, in real life, each federal department controls its own computer systems and encryption (within certain standards [1]).
  • This trope is the entire plot of Hackers. (Which should rather be called Crackers.)
  • WarGames, probably one of the earlier instances of this trope, relies on the idea that the computer that controls the launching of nuclear missiles is accessible to anyone with a 300 baud modem. Of course, the creator of the not-so evil A.I. put in a backdoor password; his son's name.
    • The direct-to-video sequel plays it straight. When RIPLEY gets control, it can view through every CCTV camera in the world (apparently), and control traffic lights, and somehow make a UAV travel from the Middle East to eastern Canada in less than an hour.
    • The main character books a plane ticket to Paris online. In 1983.
  • This is used in Live Free or Die Hard. The hackers have a "fire sale"; communications, water, power, all are taken down in sequence. They even give a jet pilot false orders to kill McClane. Of course, they are unable to remotely access the power grid and have to physically break into a power hub and later, the U.S. Magical Database.
  • Superman III, notable for displaying this trope before the Internet as we know it came along, stars a guy who figures out how to glean the fractions of cents ignored when a percentage of one's income is taken for taxes, becoming rich. The bad guys recruit him, and he undergoes Flanderization, eventually becoming an über-Cracker and controlling everything from bank accounts to traffic lights to the weather itself (by messing with satellites).
    • It wasn't entirely Flanderization, as the character was depicted during his training sequence (to become a computer programmer) creating a program that did something the instructor has just explained was impossible to program. The rest of it...it IS a comic book movie, after all, and one about a nigh-invulnerable alien with god-like powers, so you don't really get to complain about anything being unrealistic.
    • It also wasn't HIM who actually controlled everything, but the AI that he designed and built for the original Big Bad (before the AI abruptly replaces him as Big Bad).

It wants to live!

    • That first bit is actually Truth in Television; it's a tactic called "salami slicing" that goes back to the early 70s.
    • Its played for laughs to a certain extent. The traffic light flashes back and forth between the red man and the green man eventually both stay lit then one jumps down and starts attacking the other. Now that's some magical hacking. Richard Lester contributed mostly camp to the Superman franchise.
  • The Sandra Bullock movie The Net (1995) is well built around this trope. Angela Bennett led a completely solitary existence where most of her acquaintances were online. Her only living family was her mother - who had Alzheimer's. She meets a man on vacation who seduces her based on her chatroom logs and steals her identification, then is forced to sign a different name on a computer pad so she can get tickets home. They then erase her identity by hacking public records. Several of her friends come to her aid, but they decoy the first one's plane into a smokestack by hacking his GPS, the second is hospitalized and then overdosed with insulin when they hack the hospital, and a third is just shot. Of course, the whole thing is run by Jeff Gregg, a software billionaire who is making millions off his faster, more efficient browser which provides better access to the internet "hackproof" security system—which contains a backdoor.
  • Averted in the 2007 Transformers movie, where the Decepticons can only access the US military's defense network by directly hacking the mainframe at the base in Qatar or the CONUS mainframe on Air Force One. Then again, in the movie all modern electronics are based on Megatron's systems, and they apparently didn't realize it.
  • Independence Day is truly guilty of this. Will Smith and the scientist find themselves trapped in an organic alien craft with, of all things, a laptop. They then manage to use this laptop to hack the "brain" of the craft and and escape. Assuming of course, that alien "brains" are not only compatible with earth computers, but are vulnerable to their attacks.
  • In Short Circuit 2, Johnny 5 replaced his shoulder-mounted laser with a radio that can hack things. He uses it to shut down cars by triggering their burglar alarms and pilot remote controlled model airplanes. However, in the last few minutes of the movie where the villain is escaping in a boat, Johnny 5 tries to use it on the boat, but it doesn't work because it is not radio controlled.
  • Untraceable: Apart from hacking a car, the villain also sets up a system where footage of whatever victim he's caught is streamed live to the internet, and the more views it gets, the closer the trap they're caught in comes to killing them. 'Cause New Media Are Evil.
    • The car-hacking thing is actually justified, although it is not hacking per-se: Jennifer owned a brand new car which had many techological amenities including code-enabled lockdown (exists in real life, although quite rare). What the hacker did was simply acquire her codes, then use them to disable the car once she drove by his ambush spot.
  • Averted in the first Mission: Impossible movie: the CIA terminal containing the information Ethan needs to steal is completely isolated, so getting said information requires an elaborate distraction to allow Ethan and crew access to the ductwork of the building so he can infiltrate the room the terminal is in.
  • In High School Musical one of the "brains" uses her laptop to hack the school's electrical grid, disabling power everywhere except the theater, so that Troy and Gabriela can make their callback at the climax of the show (movie or stage).
  • In Eagle Eye, the Voice with an Internet Connection who guides the protagonists, (ab)uses the fact that Everything Is Online to control every bit of electric machinery to aid the protagonists in their tasks. Traffic lights, security cameras, metros, mobile phones, electronic billboards, everything can be manipulated. Even construction cranes. And the movie, via timestamps on computers, shows it takes place in the distant future of January 2009.
    • In the movie's defense, it went to great lengths to show that the manipulated items were state-of-the-art online devices.
    • Subverted with Agent Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) who, thrown by the fact that cameras keep conveniently going online, seeks out the closed-circuit cameras of a small business store.
    • The Voice With an Internet Connection can even cause a power pylon to drop its wires on a target and electrocute him—despite the lack of any apparent mechanical means, online or otherwise, in place for the purpose.
  • Carried to a ridiculous extreme in Ghost in the Machine (not to be confused with the trope of the same name): in a freak accident, a serial killer has his mind (or soul, or whatever) transferred into Cyberspace. Not only is he able to hack computers, he can also control electrical appliances, including electrocuting his victims, and in one particular scene causes a microwave oven to cook someone to death. In mere seconds. From several feet across an open room! Apparently by turning it Up to Eleven, despite the fact most magnetrons only have one power level (pseudo-levels achieved through duty cycles). Though it does look cool.
  • In The Matrix, everything is the result of being plugged into a computer simulation.
    • Maybe more traditional in Neo's real world Technopath super powers in The Matrix Revolutions. The only explanation for it besides the "real world" being another simulation is if he is able to somehow wirelessly tap into any of the robots' technology through a hive mind network.
    • That's kinda reasonable if you accept that the robots were rooting for him at that point (as their only hope against Smith), and you really, really don't think about it.
  • In The Core, the plucky comic-relief hacker prevents Project Destini from firing by hacking into the power grid, and re-routing all electrical power, throughout the United States, to Coney Island. Apparently, there is no longer any such thing as a manual transformer switch.


  • In the Doctor Who Virgin Missing Adventures novel System Shock and the Past Doctor Adventures novel Millennium Shock, the Big Bad has spent years planting alien microchips in all kinds of things, precisely so they can do this. Perhaps this is why Mickey in the TV episode "World War III" is able to launch a missile from his computer with a single password...
  • In Snow Crash, Hiro Protagonist's motorcycle is rendered inert by a computer virus. ("Asherah's possessed his bike.") Perhaps justified by the book's setting in a futuristic cyberpunk world, since there's already lots of work going into the idea of making the electronic engine-management system of cars remotely accessible, so that it can be disabled in the event of theft, or stopped by the police without the need for risky manoeuvres. More creative uses are left as an exercise for the student...
  • If it's a computer, Otto Malpense of H.I.V.E. can control it, hack into it, or just plain mess around with it. Examples include; "talking" with a computer-controlled car, deactivating the Big Bad's space station while texting the semi-good guys, and jamming a grappler device.
  • Honor Harrington: Played straight and averted, depending on the computer network.
  • In the book Brain Jack , the A.I. Ursula can access everything in the world.

Live Action TV

  • After Chloe's Flanderization in Smallville to become a mega hacker, she gains access to the Daily Planet's Magical Database and is able to find absolutely everything online.
  • The fourth season of 24 features a terrorist plot to simultaneously melt down every nuclear reactor in the US using a piece of Applied Phlebotinum that looks like an ordinary laptop computer in a fancy attache case.
    • Season 7 introduced us to the "CIP device", a widget somewhat resembling a PCI modem, which had the power to hack into air traffic control transmissions, remote control aircraft, cause chemical plants to go critical, and cause general havoc nationwide.
  • Allegedly justified with the grumpy supercomputer Orac in Blakes Seven, because its creator also invented the "Tarriel cells" that power all computers in the Federation. How it also managed to control computers installed on alien spaceships is not explained...
    • Completely justified for the Federation computers, as he invented the Tarriel Cells specifically so that Orac could be built to remotely access them undetectably (and unstoppably). Orac being able to control alien systems is probably the writers just making a silly extension to an internally justified feature.
  • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive: A Monster of the Week infects the Humongous Mecha with a virus... that is transmitted to the base, and somehow, to an android character who has never shown to have any actual connection to the base's computers (he's got to push buttons like everybody else.) This would have actually made perfect sense in some seasons (which have literal Magical Computers that are connected by the same mystical forces) but Overdrive is all tech. OTOH, the virus was transmitted by a Magic Ninja...
  • In Cybergirl, the Cyber Replicants are able to interface with any computers simply by cocking their heads. This includes security systems, ATMs, electronic keyboards, TVs and school computers. Only one of which is usually online.
    • Cy's predecessor, Alana (in The Girl From Tomorrow), however, has a wrist device that interfaced with any and all computers. In 1990.
  • In Jake 2.0, Jake use his symbiotic Nanomachines to move a new Cadillac sedan, noting that the car is computer controlled.
  • Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad takes this to ridiculous levels; in one episode a "mega-virus monster" inside an alarm clock gives the main character a sequence of nightmares. Only the Rule of Funny lets one suspend disbelief.
    • Don't forget the pom-poms that were infected with a virus that uploaded whoever used them to the villain's computer. Ironically, the villain only wanted the cheerleader who owned them, but by the end of the episode the entire school (including the lunch lady, the main character's little sister, and the entire football team) were screaming floppy disks hanging from his ceiling, which he found very annoying.
    • A virus monster took over the wristwatch of one of the heroes, giving the villains control over her left hand.
    • What about the episode in which the villain switched two of the heroes' voices by putting a virus into an electric keyboard with voice-recording capabilities?
    • then there's the time the Big Bad developed a way to figure out the hero's secret identities, but needed more electronics for him to access in order to run the program, so how does he gets it? He has his dragon start a campaign to get everyone in town to put up Christmas lights.
    • Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad was made of this trope. One virus even turned the water into hydrochloric acid. Note that this was the mid-90s.
  • In one particularly nonsensical episode of Seven Days, an evil lovesick program manages to manipulate the knobs on gas burner stove in an elaborate Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • In the Inspector Morse episode "Masonic Mysteries", the villain is able to frame Morse by hacking into the police computer and altering his records. And he does all this from a prison terminal. After doing a computer course at prison.
  • The Cylons of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica use this trope a lot. In some cases it's Justified as in the miniseries where the Colonies have allowed a Cylon infiltrator to write their military coding. In the second season, there is a particularly silly example where the computers on Galactica are connected by physical wires, and this somehow allows the Cylons to hack into the network. And yes, they break the network and prevent the Cylons from hacking in by simply pulling out the wires.
      • The pesky thing about this is that yes, it IS possible to hack into a wired network (some types, at least) without a direct physical tap, but the range is limited to no more than a few INCHES from a wire at the MOST (using a device called an Induction Tap, which is mostly useful for putting hard-to-detect taps into hardline phone networks).
    • The First Cylon War forced the Colonials to take Everything Offline to combat the Cylons. Indeed, the Colonials became Genre Savvy enough to make it so that Nothing Is Online, at least for a time. If you look closely, you realize that indeed, almost nothing seems to be networked together on the The Battlestar, up to and including the main guns, each of which have a cockpit with the gunnery crew inside aiming it.
  • John Henry from The Sarah Connor Chronicles is apparently able to control lights, elevators, and normal doors through the Internet.
  • Micah in Heroes embodies this trope with his mutant evolved ability to talk to machines.
  • In the Doctor Who serial The Green Death, the meglomaniac computer BOSS (Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor) plans to take over the world by controlling all the world's computers. In the 1970s (or was it the 80s?). Somehow this enables it to control people's minds as well.
    • In "Dalek", the Dalek not only manages to download the entire Internet within mere seconds from a random terminal in an Elaborate Underground Base, it also succeeds in draining the entire Eastern United States of electricity within these same mere seconds.
    • Also, in the episode "The Eleventh Hour" the Doctor writes a computer virus that resets everything everywhere to zero which includes random clocks on the wall. Mechanical clocks.
  • Played straight and averted in the same episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Shear Strength. Dr. Octopus hacks into and controls satellites, cell phone GPS locators, street lights, even a coffee shop cash register all because they have computers. However, he later needs the help of someone else to get some Homeland Security codes, as they are on a closed network.
  • Amazingly averted by NCIS: Los Angeles, when asked to do something about a security system the team hacker points out that it isn't actually connected to the internet.
    • Played straight most of the time with the hacker able to find cars, people off of the traffic cameras, etc.
  • On Caprica, Zoe Greystone creates an online AI avater of herself and several other people not by copying their psyche, but by relying on information online such as medical records, security footage, etc.
    • Noteworthy is the fact that Caprica in itself is neither our planet nor our present time, but it's a nice metaphor/warning/criticism of our reliance on technology and its possible consequences.
  • In an episode of Flashpoint Spike, the team's technical expert notes that the criminals running an illegal casino made his job way easy by using basic off-the-shelf wireless cameras for surveillance. He can easily access the system remotely and use the cameras to guide the team into the building.
    • Another time he is forced at gunpoint to hack into the security system of a police evidence warehouse. Apparently every alarm in the building can be accessed remotely over the internet if you know the access codes.
  • While often played straight, this is subverted at least as often on Leverage as Hardison typically needs physical access to hack into the target systems. However, the subversions generally only apply when it is important to the plot. When it is an element played for laughs, it is more likely to be this trope, one notable example is when Hardison easily hacks into the traffic cameras in London to spy on Nate.

Tabletop Games

  • In Champions, every motor vehicle in Millennium City is remotely controlled by a central computer. They never really discuss the implications of this.
  • Shadowrun is generally one of the usual suspects, though it does avert the trope on occasion. In 3rd edition, extra-sensitive systems were often off-line or in a closed-circuit system, though "extra-sensitive" may or may not include the security of top-secret megacorp research labs. 4th edition still takes the cake: almost all computers rely on wireless technology, meaning you don't even need a physical connection to your target to wreak havoc. Forget people's cars, start thinking about people's cyberware, which may include things like eyes or even the connection between their brain and their somatic nervous system.
  • Eclipse Phase has most everything connected by wireless mesh, including robot brains. Exsurgent technology goes farther, actually. You can hack someone's brain through their sensory input.

Video Games

  • The basic premise of Mega Man Battle Network. In some optional missions, escaped viruses make their way into action figures and electronic keyboards. Even the Mafia operates online.
    • The premise of Mega Man NT Warrior, the anime version of the above game series, is naturally founded upon this trope as well. The first episode demonstrates this by showing that a kitchen oven is connected to the internet, and it's self cleaning devices are regulated through it.
    • Also occasionally averted. While many unlikely things are connected to the internet such as Mayl's piano & Myuki's mirror (which may just be PCs designed to look like these things), there are many devices like cars, TVs, vending machines & major public works like the water treatment plant that are not online, despite being computer controlled & must be jacked into manually.
    • The trope continues in the spiritual successor, Mega Man Star Force.
      • Taken to such ridiculous levels that you can find EM wave spaces in medieval crowns, sunken galleon masts, rocks, and even rotisserie chicken, and that's just in 2.
      • Justifiably, this is taken in account that anything that gives off 'waves' has a wave world in it. This includes literal electronic waves and more metaphorical waves, such as a fountain giving off "Cool waves" or something.
  • Taken to ridiculous extremes in the Sega CD game Panic!, where a computer virus infects the World Central Network, and every machine in the world, including vending machines, vehicles, elevators, and countless other objects, starts going haywire in indescribably bizarre ways. This makes substantially more sense than the rest of the game.
  • Splinter Cell: Double Agent has a sequence where a character hacks into some slot machines and makes them start spewing money as a distraction. To make it worse, those slot machines are on a cruise ship at sea.
    • However in the previous Splinter Cell games, averting this was the whole reason for Third Echelon's existence: Sam Fisher is only sent in to infiltrate the facilities that can't be breached by electronic means. One mission in Chaos Theory has Grim try to hack a bank's network, discover they unplug their hard drives every night then wryly pass comment before sending Sam in.

"Crazy world we live in where physical intrusion is less of a threat than electronic intrusion"

  • A major plot point in the .hack series is that everything is connected to the world wide web and, moreover, is connected by reliance on some variant of the single operating system that survived a catastrophic network virus disaster called Pluto's Kiss. This means everything from nuclear reactors to traffic light programs to heart monitors is somehow wired together.
    • Pluto's Kiss, only referenced as Backstory, was said to have crashed every operating system that it could connect to, save for one, which means that it could have easily crashed the whole Internet, brought the stock market to a screeching halt, and disabled all military systems. Ironically, the solution to the problem could only lead to an even greater disaster for the exact same reason.
    • In the first four games, this software standardization is utilized by the MMO, The World, to facilitate an ever-growing database of human personality observations designed to create the Ultimate AI, cutting into real world systems to allocate memory and processing power. As the controlling software - Morganna Gone Mode - suffers from its own Logic Bomb, fragments itself into eight components, and then each of those components is destroyed, the systems it has hacked into begin breaking down and can not be recovered due to the nature of the overriding program. The stress is relieved when Aura, the Ultimate AI, is finally completed and she re-stabilizes the whole of the system. Then improves the system.
    • In the second group of games, the inherent human-based AI producing software comes full circle and manages to bite the human operators in the butt in the form of AIDA, essentially the leftovers of Aura, multiple free-radical programs that affect players' minds directly through their neural headsets. Then, when the AIDA situation is resolved, a second Cubia appears in response to the re-activation of parts of the original Morganna program. And it tries to preform garbage collection on the whole of the affected systems, i.e., the whole network and everything connected to it.
    • Interestingly, reading the news reports on the outside world in the games shows that there are, in fact, plenty of people who see the problem with the system, and are trying to break ALTIMIT OS's monopoly on the world's computers. The problem is that most people who lived through "Pluto's Kiss" are so convinced that ALTIMIT is invulnerable to viruses (and for the most part it is, only sentient AI's have been able to harm it), that they're unwilling to take a chance on anything else.
  • Dreamfall: The Longest Journey takes place in a future in which, indeed, pretty much everything is online. The mysterious network failures known as "The Static" have even resulted in fatal car accidents, and, indeed, one the things you get to hack during the game is a car.
  • In Outlive instead of the human spies who do operations for the player on a set budget and have a training time if they get captured and killed, the robots pay money to create expendable viruses that are used in certain quantities for certain missions. These can be used for everything to scouting an area of pristine wildernes and sabotage, to redirecting ICBMs.
  • In Alpha Prime, one of the major gameplay mechanics is a device which can remotely hack into and control cameras, doors, pressure valves, vehicle loaders, sentry guns, and proximity mines. The game lampshades this trope when your Mission Control, who hacks into pretty much everything else, says about opening a window, "Anything can be opened from a console when you have a real pro on the job."
  • Used as a plot point in Final Fantasy XIII: The Big Bad controls the internet, and lets the party shop through secure channels that the military doesn't know about in order to fuel his plan to turn them into Super Soldiers and help destroy humanity. He even taunts you about this whenever you go shopping later in the game.
  • Played straight in Mind Jack where due to advances in cybernetics by the huge corporations nearly everything and everyone is online.
  • Averted in Deus Ex twice. One mission involves getting an allied AI access to military internet systems. At the end of the game Deus Est Machina Helios get its power because people willingly follow it instead of the corrupt leaders currently in power. It can at most "change some codes and turn off a couple lights" on its own.
  • Project Eden: Lucy hacked into a police computer and get her sister sent to the cities underground, so she can steal her body.
  • In the third stage of Lollipop Chainsaw, Juliet gets an upgrade for her magical zombie-hunting chainsaw as a birthday gift from her younger sister; she comments that it had been on her Amazon Wish List.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • This trope is the default setting for internet research in most of the Guardians Universe campaigns.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Sarge has Simmons delete the Blues from command's database. There's a moment of panic as to where Caboose was until he came back, explaining that Church required Caboose to go to the bathroom before a battle. It's subverted in the next season, when P.H.I.L.L.S. has a backup at the Freelancer storage facility.

Western Animation

  • This trope is used egregiously in The Magic School Bus, where a computer can raise and lower the flag, make coffee, and open doors. The problem is not so much that computers are doing things they couldn't do (all of those things could be connected to a central control and run by network) and more that computers are being used to do things it would be safer and easier to do manually. Possibly justified, because they were addressing what could happen in a computer program to make the above tasks go haywire. In the end, it was a programing error (The code read "Every minute" instead of "Every Day".). It wasn't so much that the tasks could be done or not, but rather how a computer processes information. The task of raising a flag is just a visual aid for the kids watching the show to get that something is wrong.
  • The most wonderful example of this would be Inspector Gadget's niece Penny's Computer Book. In a time when the first laptop computers were just being released, hers could break into anything to help her Uncle Gadget.
    • What makes this more fantastical is that she was able to do this before anything that could be called the Internet existed. Through radio and microwave hacking? Or electric telepathy?
      • At least early on, there were comments suggesting everything she was hacking (usually MAD robotics) was being radio-controlled, which could maybe be handwaved by Dr. Klaw wanting personal overrides on everything. And this tends to happen when she's physically closer to the device than Klaw, so Penny could be squelching signals. Not that the treatment's still anything close to realistic.
  • Also applies to XANA's attacks in Code Lyoko, although this is partially explained away—the inky black "spectres" are apparently capable of wiring up any electronic device, inanimate object, or even human being, as desired.
    • Jérémie also manages to hack about anything with the Supercomputer, including military databases.
  • In an episode of the old Mega Man cartoon, a virus causes everything to work for Dr. Wily. Even phone cords. And toasters. And sofas. In fact, the objects he controls act in ways they couldn't possibly in normal life, like street lamps strangling people. Half of the objects didn't even use electricity, like a push lawnmower and a exercise bike and he controlled all those appliances all at the same time with just a joystick.
  • Justified in Futurama: Mom had designed things that way so that she could eventually Take Over the World.
  • On the Y2K Halloween episode of The Simpsons, Homer's workstation being non Y2K compliant causes everything to rebel, including pacemakers, electric shavers and cartons of milk.
    • That was more likely a case of Lampshade Hanging on the ridiculous amount of hype about Y2K and the supposed "problems" it would cause everyone.
  • In the cartoon series The Batman, a Digital Advanced Villain Emulator (D.A.V.E) program "escapes" through the power cord of his computer, into a manufacturing factory, knocks out a worker by firing electricity through the keyboard and then reprograms the factory to build him a body.
    • Earlier in the series, The Riddler hacks into a computer system and is somehow able to remote-operate a crane at a construction site.
  • In Static Shock, a disgruntled technician builds a helmet that allows her to uplink her consciousness to the Internet in the form of the ultimate worm virus. Not only can she connect to things that shouldn't be online, she can take anything that has a computer in it and use that fact to access functions the computer itself couldn't, such as driving cars by accessing "the onboard computer systems", which should really just consist of a GPS or something. Now, given that she chose to pull this gimmick against an electricity-themed hero and his supergenius sidekick, she doesn't last very long—she gets taken out with antivirus software which winds up feeding back through the helmet and pretty much rendering her catatonic. The repercussions are never discussed.
  • Acknowledged in ReBoot: Daemon can't infect systems that don't have a connection to the net. Interestingly, you can use Portals to access said systems.
  • In one episode of the 1980s animated Incredible Hulk, an evil computer starts taking over the world through the electric power lines. All manner of small appliances, including electric razors and pop-up toasters, start flying around and attacking people.
  • Charlie Strap and Froggy Ball Flying High (original name "Kalle Stropp och Grodan Boll på svindlande äventyr"), a Swedish animated feature film, had this as a key part of the villains' plot: they have a floppy disc[4] with a program on it that allows them to hack into the government's computers as easily as pressing a few buttons, which they will use to give themselves permission to move an historical castle to the main characters' forest, and re-build it into a hyper-modern hotel. Apparently, the program can also edit the government's non-digital records... though that might just be the villains being idiots and assuming this trope to be in effect.

Real Life

  • Basically the concept of buzzword "The Internet Of Things".
    • Derided as "Insecure, Dangerous Internet Of Things" for the reasons probably obvious from this very page even to those who didn't personally deal with matters of network security.
    • As e.g. this analysis in The Register points out, one of the oft-ignored problems is that the more radio transmitters are out here, the more resulting noise impacts reliability and speed of each individual connection (existing wireless networks and interfaces included) - raising the number by two orders of magnitude in all apartments of a house can cause big problems on purely physical level, even before you get to actual networking. And since those cheap devices will obviously all use a single protocol and lots of ugly rip-off solutions teeming with compatibility problems just like cheap USB devices do today, each one turns into disaster waiting to happen even before someone drops actual malware into this unappetizing cauldron.
  • Networked devices that have no reason for being that way were recently pointed out as a massive security problem in office environments, as in this case of a net-enabled, self-updating coffee maker (?!?). Not only can a sufficiently grief-minded hacker execute a "denial of coffee attack" by remotely screwing with the boiler temperature or the grounds:water ratios, but the control program has to be run on an XP box somewhere on the coffee maker's LAN, which effectively opens a back door onto that machine, and from there into the entire network. Oops!
    • Thankfully networked teapots are immune, as they'll end the status code 418 I'm a teapot.
    • Even the power grid is online. And using default or no passwords.
    • One can also connect an Wifi-equipped interceptor device into a private and secure network, then spy on that unit, and consequently the network, over an internet connection. In fact, this is the way most viruses work, exchanging "device" for "program."
    • It seems a lot of executives at tech companies insist on making their products Internet-enabled, whether it makes sense or not, simply because the Internet is the "latest" thing.
  • A hilarious example of this trope's effects in action, even titled We Can Thank Hollywood And "Hacker" Films For This.
  • MIT's web enabled drink machines, and others along those lines
    • Vending machines are actually worth putting online. It allows the operating company to check on their status remotely, and only dispatch service personnel when needed, rather than having to schedule them more frequently to ensure there aren't outages. This saves significant money and/or time. (If you're a service person who gets paid according to how large a number of machines you cover, you don't want to have to visit each machine more often than you need to, since that reduces the number of machines you can cover.)
  • Then there was the Polish kid who modified a TV remote to hack into the Lodz train system and control it.
  • There are also actually some limited versions of this technology in existence now, or under research, but they are usually passive in nature. EMESCAT systems, which have existed since the Cold War, are designed to remotely gather information (such as, say, reading what's on your CRT computer monitor) from the electromagnetic radiation given off by a computer. This generally takes the form of a sensitive EM sensor near the computer in question, such as in a van across the street, or the other side of a hotel wall. Superconducting Quantum Interface Devices (also called SQUIDs), are similar devices that are currently (mostly?) theoretical. These latter would generally depend on direct physical connections to the computer, but ranged versions have been proposed.
    • TEMPEST and all manner of passive and active sensing systems have existed for a while. Similarly, the old-school UK TV detector vans used simple tricks to spot even televisions that had been turned off and unplugged (less useful nowadays with vastly more pervasive use of electronics). However, reading your screen or your keystrokes from across the road is not in the same ballpark as reading the same information from anywhere in the world. There have been documented cases of highly effective electronic warfare (such as the Israeli strike on a Syrian 'nuclear facility' in September 2007) but these are, once again, done using in-theatre devices and not by some hackers with a net connection somewhere else in the world. Hacking local devices remotely is not even slightly the same game as hacking arbitrary devices via the internet.
  • Cloud Computing: It's the future! (TM)
  • Electronic road signs are apparently easy enough to manipulate with physical access, but obviously not connected to any network.
    • At least in some places and countries they are connected to a traffic control network for the sake of keeping tabs on malfunctions, and for making statistics easier.
  • Irregularities with voting machines in the 2006 American election were blamed on Mc Afee anti-virus software by the company that made them. Why voting machines would need anti-virus software - or to be hooked up to the internet at all -is a troubling concept, as this XKCD cartoon points out.
  • There's a bit of a kerfluffle over the harddrives in networked copiers; they are never properly disposed of and tend to keep all sorts of documents on it. This is, of course, a security breach.
  • Some departments of at least some governments are smart enough to keep two (or possibly more) distinct networks: one that contains all the classified data and isn't connected to anything outside, and another network that does connect to the outside and on which nothing sensitive is permitted to be. Occasionally, cases from these isolated networks turns up in recyclers' hands, including their prominent notices about the system being only allowed to be connected to the isolated network. Given that the government of Canada does do this, and the above reference to the hard drive destruction hardware, one can presume the hard drives are disposed of properly.
  • While your car isn't technically "online," its onboard navigation and security suite (like OnStar) is. While this hasn't been maliciously abused, some hackers with a laptop over a bridge have managed to engage the brakes and disable the engine in rush hour traffic. Also note that if you can pair a bluetooth device with your car's entertainment system, and that system is connected to the car's computer without a reasonably protected API -- congrats, your car is hackable.
  • Tractors of today are highly sophisticated affairs that query online databases to synch data regarding how to plant crops. 90% of the world's tractors come from the same manufacturer and use the same set of credentials to get on to their network. An apocalyptic food shortage months from now would be precipitated by someone playfully setting seed and planting depths to ungrowable levels today.
  • There was a point at which Predator feeds were unencrypted at one juncture in their trip back to base. For $20 of software you too could have watched through the eyes of a US drone!
  1. which are now being marketed at the Consumer Electronics Expo
  2. but since the computers contain records of where the records are, they could easily be destroyed.
  3. but they would be unable to protect you if the authorities were convinced you are a criminal and/or a terrorist.
  4. it was made in 1991