Have you ever longed for a film to come true, to deliver a utopia of flying cars, space exploration and the instant gratification of virtual desires? Or, has a film ever made your blood run cold as you realise just how close we are to tumbling into a machine governed abyss, or feel a flicker of unease at seeing past predictions come to pass without anyone seeming to notice?
Two weeks ago, a select group of experts gathered at the Kaspersky Lab offices to discuss how technology has been portrayed on screen in both film and television over the years – the ridiculous, the enviable, the convenient, the terrifying and the predictable. From robots and computers with feelings to some of the most ridiculous hacking techniques ever thought up by a screen writer, we found out just how close to reality we are when it comes to our favourite films.
Films have inspired real life hacks
“In Terminator 2, John Connor uses his Atari Portfolio to hack an ATM in order to steal money. While at the time, it would have seemed like a pipe dream for criminals, the scene definitely anticipated cybercriminals’ tactics and over the past few years it’s become a reality.
One recent example is an attack Kaspersky Lab identified, committed by the cybercriminal group, Metel. By infiltrating the corporate network of banks, the group was able to automate the roll-back of ATM transactions meaning gang members were able to use debit cards to steal money from ATMs without affecting the balance on the card.” – David Emm, principle security researcher, Kaspersky Lab.
People have actually tested the hacks you see before they appear on screen
“One of the things people don’t realise about the hacks I am responsible for on Mr Robot is that I actually do them. When you see a hack take place on screen I will have built that hack and tried it out at home. You’ll see little groups of people forming on Reddit, taking a look and dissecting what we’re doing, so everything has to be real.” – Marc Rogers, technical advisor to Mr Robot.
You only see a tiny fraction of a hack on screen
“In reality, building a hack is time consuming and visually, not very appealing – you’re never going to see big red letters saying ‘Access Denied’ flash up on screen in real life – so however realistic a hack looks on screen, you’ll only ever see the tiniest fraction of the full job. Because of this, I don’t think we need to worry about people learning hacking skills from movies, just that they might be inspired to join the bad guys rather than learn these skills for good.” – David Jacoby, cyber security evangelist, Kaspersky Lab.
Films have inspired legislation
“It’s claimed that, immediately after watching War Games, Ronald Regan asked ‘could this happen?’, which lead to the creation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. For me, I’m scared that ever more realistic portrayals of hacking could force policymakers to create increasingly draconian laws that take away our already threatened civil liberties and stifle digital innovation.” – Marc Rogers.
All hacks, from Mr Robot to Die Hard, are possible
“I’ve actually never seen a hacking scene in a film that I couldn’t see coming true one day – from attacks against critical infrastructure to hacking someone’s identity – all these things do and will happen. While the reality looks far less cool than they make out on screen, its effects are just as dangerous.” – David Jacoby
Almost human androids could be realised in our lifetime
“I believe in the next 30 years that the kind of androids we currently see in sci-fi will start becoming part of our families and companies, and as indistinguishable from real people as those in Blade Runner. What we need to prepare for is managing our relationships with these machines and working out what boundaries exist between human and android. ” – Ian Pearson, futurologist.
And by the time those intelligent beings are among us, it might be too late
“By “too late”, I don’t necessarily mean I think androids will take over but that there will be a period where we can’t tell the difference between a human and a machine because the point of evolution between what appears intelligent and conscious actually becomes intelligent and conscious will be obscured. If that’s the case, we will be too late to simply just stop it happening or engineer it in a more controllable way – once we’ve created artificial life, will we have the same level of power to effectively impose a death sentence once we decide it’s gone too far?” – Adam Laurie, director Aperture Labs.