Hollywood Hacking

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    We should feel lucky they even know what Django is.

    "Our webs are down, sir. We can't log in!"
    "Which webs?"
    "All of them."
    "They've penetrated our code walls. They're stealing the internet!"
    "We'll need to hack all IPs simultaneously."


    The Big Bad has launched the world's most potent virus and you've got 10 minutes before he destroys every computer in the world! Quickly, hack into his Master Computer and delete the virus! What, you don't know how to hack? Never mind - the computer is state of the art, which apparently means Extreme Graphical Representation, easy to guess Highly Visible Passwords, and a Viewer-Friendly Interface. Instead of exploiting security flaws, you guide a little 3D version of yourself through a fiery maze that somehow represents the firewall. It's nothing like real hacking, although either way, you may have to use Rapid-Fire Typing. That last part also means that any AI or robot that can directly interface with a computer is automatically the greatest hacker in the universe that can instantly take over any system no matter how secure, because it doesn't need to type.

    Hollywood Hacking is when some sort of convoluted metaphor is used not only to describe hacking, but actually to put it into practice. Characters will come up with rubbish like, "Extinguish the firewall!" and "I'll use the Millennium Bug to launch an Overclocking Attack on the whole Internet!" - even hacking light switches and electric razors, which is even sillier if said electric razor is unplugged.

    To be fair, Hollywood Hacking predates the metaphors. There's a Hollywood Brute Force that is very often used on passwords. When this is used, you will see a constantly changing string of random letters and numbers, and they will stop changing in random order one at a time until the correct password is showing on the screen. Particularly sophisticated ones will make the correct characters start glowing. This is done because it looks much neater than the correct password popping up out of nowhere.

    Of course, with computers, this could also fall under much the same heading as And Some Other Stuff; If the thought of popular TV shows, movies, or books showing kids how to make bombs in their kitchen gives Moral Guardians the shivers, imagine what the thought of said works showing them how to use those horrible demon machines in their rooms to hack bank accounts, crack Pentagon secrets or steal a copy of the screenplay for the upcoming Twilight movie would do to those same Moral Guardians.

    In Video Games the Hacking Minigame is an Acceptable Break From Reality based on the Rule of Fun ... mainly because who wants to sit there and exploit security flaws when you could use a green tank to shoot stuff?

    Examples of Hollywood Hacking include:

    Anime and Manga

    • In Cowboy Bebop, Ed hacks via a school of cute, tiny fish nibbling on screenshots of web pages.
    • Mahou Sensei Negima (the manga, at least) has Chachamaru attempt to hack into the school's computer system, which are represented by pixellated sharks. A student uses an artifact to transport herself into cyberspace and fight them, Magical Girl-style.
      • This must be a parody of something (maybe itself), since it clashes with the realistic attack vectors (SYN flood, etc.) used in the hacking attempt. In fact, most of the attacks and techniques used are actual hacking techniques, but visualized in absurd ways (a DOS attack is a tuna, etc.)
      • She's chanting Unix shell commands, real iptables syntax involved.
    • In Neon Genesis Evangelion both an Angel and SEELE attempt to hack into the Tokyo-3 MAGI, and both are repelled by Ritsuko's l33t h@xx0r ski11z with accompanying ridiculous graphical representation.
    • Made fun of in Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series where Kaiba's computer claims to be so advanced it makes hacking look like a boring video game. Said computer also points out how Kaiba seems to be pressing the same keys over and over prompting the latter to claim he learned how to hack by watching old episodes of Star Trek.
      • This concept is revisited in Yu-Gi-Oh Ze Xal, when Yuma's sister Akari attempts to track down and destroy a virus, complete with an RPG-style dungeon and a boss battle.
      • Yu-Gi-Oh 5 Ds has a different version; rather than passwords, information is hidden behind duel puzzles (a duel-in-progress is presented and you have limited chances to figure out how to win in one turn). It's an... interesting way of shoehorning duels into episodes that otherwise wouldn't have them. At one point the access to an important database is hidden inside a duel puzzle arcade machine - the person who thought it up claims that nobody would look for a database there, plus he can slack off at the arcade and claim it's for work.
    • In Dennou Coil, even the least eye-catching examples of hacking look suspiciously like Hermetic Magic and Instant Runes (the more visual ones? They involved rockets). In this case, though, it's justified in that a) they're not using the internet at all, but rather Augmented Reality technology and b) the Augmented Reality subculture in the series is dominated mostly by preteen children, the exact sort of people who would try to make hacking as flashy as possible.
    • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has, in Lagann-hen, Lordgenome's head HAACKIIIING into the Cathedral Terra by having a virtual recreation of his body run down a virtual hallway connecting the ships, then running around virtual corridors to find a box, smashing it open with his head and eating the red sphere inside it. Nobody cared about how unrealistic it was in this case because a) it's Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and b) it was hilarious.
    • Both used and averted in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: firewalls are represented by spheres with shiny, meaningless glyphs on them. But when the characters hack into them, they do it by connecting an intrusion program (which looks sort of like a welding torch) and waiting a while (though it takes only a few seconds of screentime). In one episode, such a software hack was used to distract the target from the Major breaking in and physically connecting to the local network.
      • The creators have noted that the cyberspace doesn't really look like that at all, but it's an entertaining visual representation for the audience's benefit.
    • Hanaukyo Maid Tai has the maid staff trying to prevent a hacker from accessing their system by playing what appears to be a game of Centipede against a spider that's stealing information by walking across the screen and grabbing boxes from a warehouse. When Grace wakes up she defeats the hackers with some quick keystrokes by summoning a giant Pac-Man.
    • Summer Wars features a lot of the Hollywood Hacking staples, such as Rapid-Fire Typing and virtual reality representations for hacking, but it also balances it out with a lot of parts that are grounded in reality (such as the movie's villain, a hacker AI named Love Machine, acting like a botnet program, and doing things the way an actual real-life hacker would do them.)


    • In Masterminds, computer hacking consists of playing a literal computer game, consisting of hunting for a "valid entrance" in a 3-D animated dungeon (with hostile skeletons!), while the system itself proclaims full awareness of your activities and their illegality. It's a good enough sport to let you proceed without a fuss if you win.
    • 1980s movie Weird Science had a hacking scene in which military security systems resembled wormholes from Star Trek.
    • This is also seen in the movie Swordfish to a degree, when Hugh Jackman's character creates a worm to hack into a bank and steal the money for John Travolta's organization. This film features large amounts of Rapid-Fire Typing and Viewer-Friendly Interface. Also, as he is first hired, the hacker is able to break into a government network in only 60 seconds through extreme Rapid-Fire Typing while receiving oral sex and with a gun pointed at his head. Hugh is Just That Good the best at what he does.
      • Hilariously, at another point of the movie the dialogue indicates that the writers of the movie think that a computer with multiple monitors is inherently more powerful than one that has just one.
    • WarGames invented the whole tapping-a-few-keys-and-saying-"We're-in" shtick, and set the general form of how every movie hacker is portrayed. To be fair, it was more accurate than most for its time; the movie was released back when the concept of "computer security" barely existed. Between that and easily phreaking out old analog phone systems, it was often as easy as hooking up an acoustic coupler, letting a wardialer run for an afternoon, then trying out obvious passwords until you could log into something.
      • Consider that "wardialing" and many related real-life concepts are named after this movie.
      • Also, the only scenes where he 'taps a few keys and he's in' are scenes where he's already found out what the right password is. (In one instance, by actually sneaking into the office where the computer is kept and finding out where the user wrote their password down on a note in their desk. In another instance, by researching the biography of the system's original programmer and trying things like birthdates and names of relatives.)
    • Hackers, of course. The entire movie basically. And it is glorious. There are some realistic discussions about password security, which is how some of the earlier hacks get done (Admin password is God...), and pretty much all of the prep work for the big hack is actually realistic. Lots of stealing passwords, going through discarded printouts, tapping the phone lines. It's like they did all the research on how hacking actually happens, and thought it would just be boring.
    • Live Free or Die Hard is the subject of the Penny Arcade strip quoted at the top of the page.
    • Transformers Film Series: From sounds being capable of hacking networks, to "Let me work my magic..." accompanied by Extreme Graphical Representation, this whole movie was one big pile of fail.
    • Played with in one of Eddie Izzard's stand up routines.

    "Hundred bazillion possible passwords... "Jeff"! And I'm in."
    "How did you know?"
    "Well, he was born in Jeff, on the seventh day of Jefftober... And they're always so swish about it, too..."

    • Fortress (1993 film with Christopher Lambert): the genius D-Day sits down at the keyboard of Zed-10, the mad Master Computer. He types the password (which is "Crime does not pay", the motto Zed-10 repeats every now and then) and then he types... "INSTALL D-DAY'S REVENGE VIRUS". No!
    • Independence Day, with extra bonus points for hacking into an alien computer, and figuring out its display well enough to send a visual Take That to the invaders.
    • Disclosure features Demi Moore and Michael Douglas going head to head in a 3D-VR library world with avatars of themselves deleting files and whatnot. Lame, even for 1994.
      • It wasn't that bad. They weren't "going head to head", she didn't even know he was in the VR system, which he was only using because it had been previously established to be a prototype unburdened by the normal access control security system.
    • The Mangler V2.0: Graduation Day. Features a website known as "The Hackers Mall" which appears to date from the early 1990's and displays an visual homage to the Take That of Independence Day, numerous examples of Everything Is Online (various "hacked" cables posing a physical threat to the protagonists) and a wired up Lance Henriksen/computer hybrid with what looks like a bucket attached to its foot. Also, Cyberpunk Is Techno.
    • The Core has one of the characters reroute power from the US to a single location and find secret weapons files seemingly from the Internet.
    • R2D2 can hack into any Imperial or Civilian computer system with ease, so long as he can tell the difference between a computer terminal and a power socket.
    • Subverted in Jurassic Park: The 3D interface that Lex recognizes as UNIX ("I know this!") was an actual UNIX utility, though not one available to the general public—the then-experimental Silicon Graphics 3D File System Navigator. It was actually running on the Silicon Graphics flavor of UNIX—its version number, 4.0.5, is visible in one of the close-up shots of the shell window.
    • Possibly the ultimate example of Hollywood Hacking can be seen in Superman III, where Richard Pryor's character Gus Gorman actually has no idea what he's doing -- he just bangs ignorantly on a keyboard for a minute or so and magic hacking things happen on their own. It's implied in the film that he's some kind of hacking savant.


    • The Demon Headmaster: The only thing preventing access to the Prime Minister's computer is a weak password, and to hack it, you just need to tell the computer "knock, knock" jokes. Apparently, it takes the combined power of the brightest minds in the country to figure this out.
    • The very grandfather of this trope is William Gibson, who wrote the whole graphical hacking trope into his novel Neuromancer. He later admitted to basing it off teenagers playing arcade games, and that he had never used a computer before he wrote Neuromancer. Oddly enough this gives it a timeless (if vague) quality that accurate specifics would never have. He later tried a computer, to find it "disappointing." Eventually, Gibson broke down, and seems to be as addicted as the rest of us, having recently switched from keeping a blog to posting to Twitter.
    • In Tom Clancy's Net Force, people use VR to demolish code or bypass filters, such as killing viruses by turning them in nasty rats in a city, or passing firewalls by shooting them in a Wild West duel. It's a lot more fun than sitting at a command prompt and getting carpal tunnel, according to the personnel.
      • Clear and Present Danger averts the trope, with a government techie requiring hours and hours to guess the password to an encrypted file, using lots of biographical data about the owner as a library. The movie plays it straight for laughs, with the password being guessed before the techie's boss even managed to leave the room.
    • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Soul Drinker, a mechanized tech adept connects via a mechanical implant to an ancient relic... and uses it to hack the sentient circuitry inside at the speed of thought, as the technology was so advanced that they couldn't keep up otherwise. According to the description, the relic is so amazed at having the first of four firewalls gene-encoders broken through (and therefore light up on the grip) that the second one falls soon after.
    • Frequently occurs in Animorphs, usually by Ax, as a result of his advanced alien knowledge. Human computers are extremely primitive to him.
    • The (long) short story True Names and Other Dangers did it three years before Neuromancer. It actually went further by making the case in-universe than in the age of VR, effective hacking is by definition Hollywood Hacking; governmental security is portrayed as less effective because of their agents' insistence on straightforward analogues of programming code and terminology to sensory representation, while the underground adopts and uses magical idioms and intuitive rather than logical interfaces.

    Live-Action TV

    • This was handwaved (lampshaded?) in Nikita with the explanation of, "I even made it look like a video game so your little tween brains can handle it."
    • In possibly one of the most ridiculous evil plots known to man, you've got Bowser/King Koopa's hacking-related world domination plan in the Mario Ice Capades. The gist of it? From within a video game, he plans to use a virus in a NES console to hack a computer, and apparently take over the world (in an extreme version of Everything Is Online). This is then compounded by the program's host saying that an evil computer virus will 'release all the evil forces stored up in the computer'. Yes, it's actually a real TV show segment.
    • In an episode of NCIS, Lab Rat Perky Goth Abby hacks into The Immortals by storming the castle. On a more realistic note, when looking for a password in the same game, she has to use a program to find it, as as it turns out The Password Is Not Swordfish.
      • In another episode with a sabotaged car-driving AI, they hacked into the SUV through sensor feed transmissions. Yes, there was a manual-adjustment feed, for slight adjustments of a specific system, but they used it to hack into root control within seconds. And then they have a fancy GUI menu on their own system to interface with it.
      • The episode "Kill Screen" had a semi-plausible cyberattack scheme where a hacker inserted a sophisticated subroutine into an online video game that he was lead programmer on. He could then use this to hijack the player's computers to use as a distributed network that would act as an encryption breaking supercomputer. However, the computing power he gets from this is massively exaggerated and the setup is seemingly able to crack the Pentagon's network within half an hour (with convenient timer and graphical progress representation). Once discovered such an attack should be easy to stop but the NCIS team instead has to race against the clock to shut down the main server.
      • One episode even has two characters typing simultaneously on the same keyboard in order to prevent a hacker from hacking an NCIS computer.
    • Lampshaded/Justified in Criminal Minds:

    Garcia: "It would take anyone else quite a while to do that. I make it look easy because I'm just that good."

    • This is how the new Cybermen were first defeated in Doctor Who - once Mickey finished typing the same five characters over and over the password to their internal systems had appeared on screen one letter at a time.
    • Unnatural History uses this for one episode. Young hackers vs. other young hackers. By the way, only one of the good guys has any Informed Ability with computers beyond the basic functions everyone knows, and another has spent most of his life in the Third World.
    • The Red Dwarf episode Gunmen of the Apocalypse.
    • Chloe Sullivan from Smallville is absolutely the queen of this trope. In the first season she's merely an above average hacker as a high school freshman. The next year she moves up the ability level scale by managing to hack the records of the charity that managed Clark's adoption. By Seasons 3 and 4, however, she's a completely master at hacking, and can hack emergency services, electric grids, medical records, and as of the later seasons, even government agencies. In one episode of Season 8, she is given a piece of alien technology...and successfully hacks into it within a relatively short span of time.
      • Partially explained by having Brainiac in her head at one point. Even after he's purged from her Chloe probably picked up a few tricks for keeps.
    • Hardison from Leverage is able to basically hack anything electronic. Oftentimes from a cell phone. It is also notable that the difficultly of a hack is inversely proportional to its importance to the plot. He is able to hack into London's camera system effortlessly but he often requires physical access for the target company's computer. While physical access is often necessary in reality, it would logically be necessary for police controlled surveillance cameras as well.
      • At least a bit of this was explained early in the first season: Hardison spends considerable amounts of money and spare time getting back doors into any system he might someday feel the need to hack - he isn't often really breaking in on the fly, and his cell phone is usually giving commands to a much more powerful "home system". It's still unrealistic, but a surprising number of systems become much more hackable once somebody has the resources to do things such as produce shrinkwrapped software and substitute it for a company's order.
    • Hilariously subverted in the Sherlock episode, "The Reichenbach Fall": Moriarty wows everyone with a tiny application he claims has the power to hack basically anything on the planet. He demonstrates this app by simultaneously hacking the Tower of London, the Bank of England and a major prison. At the end, it's revealed he found people beforehand who had master privs to the locks at those locations, and paid them gobs of money to help with his demonstration; all the app did was call them and tell them it was time.

    Tabletop Games

    • In Shadowrun, behind the pretty G.U.I., hacking works more or less like plausible hacking with radically advanced computer technology and nigh-unlimited computer resources. The "normal" hackers are using semi-magical abilities which let them bypass all that and hack things instinctively, with some significant downsides. They'd be the real Hollywood Hackers, since if they claim to be "Spoofing the Firewall to Brute-Force the TCP/IP Kernel," it would actually work!
      • Also, Shadowrun (depending on version you're using) actually based things on real life—you actually are using hacking tools with VR interfaces. Often times you're just using a program to repeatedly issue various commands to basically break the program you're interacting with. The security programs in Shadowrun are coded to recognize when they're under attack and respond with basically the same thing. The difference being that buffer overflows in a living creatures tend to have more serious consequences.
    • Steve Jackson Games will probably never stop referring to GURPS Cyberpunk as "the book seized by the US Secret Service". The book does have rules for "realistic" (if a few decades out of date) hacking[1], but most of that chapter is devoted to Neuromancer-style cyberspace hacking.
      • The core 4e books contain a skill called "Computer Hacking", precisely for Hollywood Hacking. However, the rules note that the skill should only exist in the more "cinematic" games—in a realistic game, the would-be hacker will have to instead learn a bunch of various skills like computer programming, psychology, etc.
    • Net Runner is this trope in CCG form.

    Video Games

    • BioShock (series): Do you want to hack into a robot, a computer or even a vending machine? Play "Pipe Dream"! The game says that the pipes carry "electric gel", making it the equivalent of opening 'er up and tinkering with the wiring. Doesn't explain how you got it open or drained the pipes in the first place, though.
      • This is actually an artifact of an old plot idea where all of Rapture's tech was Bio-mechanical and run by tiny men inside the machine. The pipes were increasing the ADAM flow to the man inside which would make him grateful to you.
      • The sequel replaces this with a "hack tool" that presumably works like an electronic lock pick that requires split-second input a few times.
    • Dreamfall: hacking is represented by a rather ludicrously simple matching-up-symbols game.
    • Mass Effect is even worse: Just see This Penny Arcade Strip.
      • The PC version, for the record, has a slightly better version which at least mimics the interface of the player's "omni-tool". It still falls under this trope.
      • Mass Effect 2 has two different Hacking Minigames. The one where you connect pins on a circuit board to open doors is relatively plausible, whereas the one where you look for matching pieces of (unreadable) text in a scrolling grid to hack people's bank accounts is just as absurd as the first game's flashing lights.
    • The Internet and network levels in Shadow the Hedgehog. Firewalls are represented as actual fiery walls.
    • Featured in Beneath a Steel Sky.
    • System Shock 1 & 2: particularly the first game, which features Cyberspace.
    • Sly Cooper does this whenever Bentley is hacking a system. This is probably one of the more reasonable stunts in the game. Of course, the games are pretty Troperrific already...
    • The eclectic Rhythm Game/Shoot'Em Up Rez.
    • Tron 2.0 features a level where the protagonist must reconfigure a firewall. From the inside. Of the computer.
    • The game Uplink from Introversion is intentionally designed to play like Hollywood Hacking. You have programs that can figure out a password for you and disable firewalls and so on automatically, though later on you can wipe mainframes and other computers by going to the DOS-like command prompt after hacking in and have to use realistic commands to delete everything (and not just by typing in "delete everything").
    • Mega Man Battle Network. Despite the fact that passwords do indeed exist, and essentially work as locked doors with plot device keys, most "hacking" is done by sending a program with a gun somewhere, sometimes via the internet, to shoot something. Particularly ridiculous in the first level of the second game, where an automatic gate lock is hacked by going on the internet and pushing a button guarded by a conveniently sleeping security program.
      • Also, in the third level of the first game, a malfunctioning metroline is repaired by a kid sending his program onto the internet and having it shoot some stuff another program put there.
      • In the third game's Bonus Dungeon, the only way to progress is to "hack the security system". If you accept, you are faced with three completely immobile towers with huge HP that have to be destroyed at the same time in one hit. Fail and it's an instant One-Hit Kill.
        • Technichally, the attack only does 1000 damage. It's perfectly possible to have more HP than that. And that's without considering Barriers or Shield Style...
    • Spybotics: The Nightfall Incident, hosted by the LEGO site and actually quite entertaining. Hacking is represented by a turn-based strategy game, with different programs representing both your own units and enemy units. No longer hosted on the Lego site, but can be found here among other places.
    • The old Commodore 64 classic Paradroid had you hack via a minigame.
    • Another C64 classic, Hacker was explicitly based on Hollywood Hacking.
      • The follow-up, the creatively named Hacker 2, went even further.
    • In Fallout 3, hacking computers is done by opening up a key-log of recent entries and picking out complete words. The game then responds with the number of correct letters in that word- you get five guesses, hopefully getting closer each time, then the computer locks you out and usually sets off an alarm.
      • In at least a semi-reasonable attempt at justification, the player is very obviously using a security flaw to bring up the list of recent entries.
    • Ratchet and Clank have come up with an entertaining variety of combinations for hacking into things - usually involving a mini-game, a handheld gadget, and little glowy dots.
    • The mostly-forgettable Bethesda game Delta-V features "hacking" as a glorified recreation of the Death Star run (and a bloody hard one at that).
    • In the Brotherhood of Nod ending of Command & Conquer, Nod hacks into GDI's Kill Sat via a virtual reality interface. Within the virtual world, a successful hacking requires dodging laser fire from a forest of turrets, then moving through a small hole that constantly changes shape. Two of the hackers are electrocuted by GDI's defenses.
    • Sam and Max, to get past a firewall in Reality 2.0, change the color of their DeSoto. Seriously. After they're past it, they engage in some mild hacking as a means of laundering money into Bosco's bank account to pay for that episode's uber-expensive item.
    • In My Sims Agents, you can hack certain devices to get information. How? Simple, you use the remote to guide an icon through a scrolling maze under a time limit. Deviate from the light path, and your time runs out faster. Also, if you run into an icon at an intersection, it changes the route the path takes, which may be a longer way.
    • Cracking a nanofield in Iji is accomplished by maneuvering a little square on a grid of flashing squares to reach the opposite corner. Maybe the nanobots are just giving Iji an Extreme Graphical Representation or something.
      • Possibly partially justified in that nanofields are alien technology.
    • Hilariously sent up in this preview of Portal 2. Wheatley tries to hack a password by trying each password in alphabetical order. Slowly. And he still manages to screw the order up.
      • This is a real method of cracking passwords, called "brute-forcing". The key difference is that real computers can try several billion passwords a second. It is, however, considered a slow, clumsy, and easily-countered method.
      • Later in the game, he tries to hack into the neurotoxin control centre. Which mostly involves putting on an accent and pretending to be a neurotoxin inspector. Performing a "manual override" on a wall or "hacking" a door meanwhile is much more violent that the name suggests.
    • Hydrophobia has you gain into computer systems by matching wave-lengths with the console. Particularly funny as the games protagonists are completely confused just how anybody could hack into their system!
    • Hacker Evolution looks like it takes more realistic route, since all hacking is done trough command prompt... except passwords are broken by typing "crack [server] [port]", there is no need to hide oneself after breaking in, files can be uploaded and downloaded freely and player can hide from authorities by paying 500$ for new IP...
    • Saints Row the Third: In one level the Saints hack into a rival gang's usernet. This involves you running around a Tron-like environment shooting their avatars, while the Big Bad tries to stop you by reversing your controls, giving you lag and making you play a command prompt game which unfairly victimizes unicorns.
    • Danball Senki has Infinity Net where battles between digital representation of LBX (essentially functioning gunpla) take place and data can be "picked up" with said LBX. Rapid-Fire Typing also applies.

    Web Comics

    Web Original


    Bruce: We Hack the internet.
    Alfred: Hack the internet?
    Bruce: Yes, hack the internet.
    General: Nobody's ever hacked the internet before.
    Bruce: Well, there's a first for everything.
    General: Okay, I like it, but which one of the internets do we hack?
    Bruce: All of them.

    • Hacker Typer is a neat-o site that lets you simulate Hollywood Hacking. While you frantically hammer away on whatever keys you want, the screen generates string after string of green "code" on a black background, similar to what you see on the screens of "hackers" in movies.
    • Referenced in Red vs. Blue season 6. Simmons is trying to get into a high security system; Grif offers such helpful advice as "try hacking the mainframe" (or cracking it) or "try uploading a virus to the mainframe" featuring a laughing skull. Protip: it's not a mainframe, and a virus is definitely not going to help you spoof a randomly-generated 2056-bit encryption keys.

    Western Animation

    • Once on The Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins hacked into a computer by literally hacking the CPU with a chainsaw.
    • Subverted on the Darkwing Duck episode "Aduckyphobia". Professor Moliarty hacks an electronic safe lock by first measuring it with a caliper, then entering a few numbers on a pocket calculator, then finally, striking it firmly with a wooden mallet so that it disintegrates.
    • Fairly minor but still entertaining examples can be seen in the new Young Justice TV series, employed by Robin.
    • All over the map in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Mildly justified by the fact that computer interfaces are primarily AI units with their own personalities and quirks; overpower or trick the AI, and you get full access. The team's Playful Hacker is as much a Con Man as he is a programmer.
    • Raf from Transformers Prime hacks into the federal network of the USA to find out where one of their microchipped agents is. He's 12 (and a quarter!). He does this later on to find out a train's exact co-ordinates.
      • This also bites him in the ass, when one of MECH's mooks realizes what Raf's doing and with a flick of a switch makes a "bomb" go off in Raf's laptop, even making the hardware sizzle. Hollywood Counter-Hacking everybody.
    • In Xiaolin Showdown, Kimiko frequently engages in this.

    Kimiko: I cross-referenced the username with a double-helix tracer decoding worm! (Somehow this produces an image of Wuya.)

    • In Jonny Quest vs. the Cyber Insects, Dr. Zin's Mooks instantly upload a vague kind of virus into the Quest family's Robot Buddy just by pressing some random button, which instantaneously totally rewrites his programming and brings him under Zin's remote control. Jonny also hacks Zin's own computer with the same virus later on.


    Anime and Manga

    • The Japanese manga, anime and live-action franchise Bloody Monday featured a teen hacker using real UNIX applications, GNOME Desktop components and lot of Python, while the fancy 3D graphs were limited to the government agents' computers.
    • Averted by Nagato Yuki's hacking skills in Haruhi Suzumiya where she's hacking the back door the computer society uses to cheat the Day of Sagittarius with real code; lots of it. Although we don't see the original lines of code she used to hack their backdoor we do get glimpses of the code she uses to rewrite the game.


    • The hacking done in The Social Network is explicitly shown to be a process of reading code and trying out strategies based off of the security settings of the target, although it takes much less time than in real life.
      • Also, the objectives of the "hacking" scene are modest (download everybody's photo in every house, without having to manually navigate to every page and right click on each image), and the descriptions of how to do it for each house's webpage, although brief, are 100% realistic. The easier pages have unprotected directory listings in Apache, so you can get all the images with a single run of the wget command. The harder ones require posting search terms to a page and scraping the output to find the photos; this requires custom scripting, therefore "bring out the Emacs" (a plain-text editor used by many programmers).
      • The hacking, and indeed all of Zuckerberg's monologue in that scene is a verbatim transcript fished from the real life court documents. So not only is that the actual method that he used to hack it happened roughly that time time frame as the time stamps on his posts attest to.
    • At least partially Averted Trope near the beginning of Iron Man 2. While he did this all from an impossibly thin smartphone, when Tony hacked the display screens being used at the senate hearing, if you look closely at the device as he handily holds it up for an instant, you can see that it is connected several Microsoft SQL servers (did Oracle sponsor this movie?), and is running the "Stark Industries Terminal Hijack System". You can even see the images of the movies he shows later on in the scene in the corner, queued up. When you see the displays a split second later it showed what appears to be an exploit involving using a built-in user, a common entry-point for hackers, to reboot the system to Starks own operating system (Complete with "Welcome Mr. Stark" printed in asterisks across the screen). While they did take a bit of artistic license, showing things you would never see, listing directories for cool scrolling text effect, at the very least the hack was depicted realistically. And since the mobile device was apparently a piece of Stark Industries equipment (which has been shown to be ridiculously advanced already, especially in the form of the Iron Man armor) this also makes sense.
      • And of course, later in the movie when Ivan takes control of the Hammer Drones and War Machine, what sort of techno-lingo-made-up hacking tool did they use to free Rhodes from the suit's control? Reboot it.
    • In Anti Trust The Big Bad's most dangerous weapon is his access to medical databases, and the protagonist is able to easily hack into the computer system because no one bothered with securing a terminal in a children's play area.
    • Averted in The Matrix, when Trinity uses a genuine hacking program called "nmap" to identify a viable target from a command line (with plenty of Rapid-Fire Typing, but in short bursts), and then uses a (fictional) "SSHnuke" program to attack a secure connection. This is actually pretty well done, and while the program she uses to make the actual attack does not exist, it's a similar idea to a "real" attack on a remote computer, and highly skilled hackers often have a personal library of programs/exploits they've written themselves. Not only that, but in the timeframe of the simulated reality (the turn of the century earth) SSHv1 really had an exploitable remote vulnerability. Of course, the less said about the rest of the Matrix's relation to real computers, the better, but at least their hacking simulated computers inside a giant simulation is a realistic simulation.


    • Clear and Present Danger has a reasonably realistic social/exhaustive attack, trying various permutations of birthdates (although they type each manually). It isn't even quite swordfish: they get down to having to mash together digits from different family members. (In a final blow to the Hollywood Computing, they even use "dir /w" to list the disk contents, even if the display is a little viewer-friendlier than normal.)
      • They also go to the lengths of making a copy of the encrypted hard drive they're trying to break into, and hacking the copy—precisely so that if they trip a logic bomb and the thing wipes itself, they can just try again on another copy. In addition, they show that step one in trying to hack a system like this is "Step One: Physically obtain custody of the system. Step Two: Pull the hard drive and put it in one of your own machines..."
    • In Catherine Jinks's young adult Evil Genius series, the protagonist, Cadel Piggott, is a Heroic Sociopath Teen Genius, but his hacking always takes a good deal of thought and planning, at least a couple of days to weeks to break into the system, and there's tons of mentions of Trojan Horse programs, backpacking on other programs, and a couple of backdoors.
    • In John Sandford's Thomas Kidd novels. Kidd uses his programming skills to take down his targets, but to get access to the systems, he uses social engineering and the help of a burglar friend.
    • Handled realistically in Daniel Suarez's Daemon and its sequel, which shouldn't be surprising since Suarez is One of Us and worked in computer security before becoming a novelist.

    Live-Action TV

    • Subverted in Sherlock. Moriarty claims to have a master code that can hack any system, and demonstrates it by simultaneously breaking in to the Tower of London, the Bank of England, and a high-security prison. There's no such master code; Moriarty made it up. He accomplished all three break-ins with inside help.

    Video Games

    • Strictly averted in Science Girls, when Jennifer tries to get Missy to hack into the alien's wormhole device. Missy makes it very clear she can't hack into something that may not even be a computer, much less one she has no clue what the security is or even how it works. She even lampshades it by quipping "Hacking isn't magic, you know."
    • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors averts this and It's Up to You at the same time in one scene. Lotus creates a program to brute-force a password, while Junpei watches - or, if the right choices are made up to that point, he could go looking for a hint - but Lotus still manages to finish her program and find the password first.

    Web Original

    • Broken Saints averts this by way of having a real hacker on-board as tech advisor.

    1. It was written by someone with connections to the infamous 1980s hacker cartel "The Legion of Doom"