Blog , 01 Dec 2016

Which TV Shows And Movies Get Hacking Right (or Wrong)?

Tobias Knecht,

Founder and CEO, Abusix

Hackers are the bane of ISP network abuse teams’ lives. But for some reason, these criminals of the darknet are glamorized in the press and entertainment industry. This leads us to ask whether hacking is being taken as seriously as it should be; especially when you consider that an estimated 37,000 websites are hacked every day.

So let’s look at a few hacker TV shows and movies to see whether they really understand what hacking is all about.

See also: How Email Spamming Landed This Infamous Hacker In Jail

Where They Got Hacking Right

Mr. Robot

This TV show won an award for hacker realism. The show is dedicated to getting the details of hacker culture and computer vulnerabilities correct. Longtime hacker Marc Rogers is actually one of the hacker consultants for the second season of the show.

Rogers is one of a small group of real-world experts who believe in keeping the hacks authentic and the TV shows entertaining. Kor Adan, another consultant, and writer on the show say the “focus on accuracy” has always been a part of Mr. Robot. Even the show’s creator, Sam Esmail, was a part-time hacker in his youth.

The realism goes right through to the code shown on-screen, which needs to work on a technical level so they don’t get complaints from the hackers that follow the show!


Many people think Michael Mann’s Blackhat may be the best hacker movie ever made, as it includes, according to one security expert “some of the most plausible hacking scenes” ever seen in a movie. Mann worked closely with Kevin Poulsen in researching, writing, and shooting the film. Poulsen is a convicted hacker who has spent time behind bars and, in his words, the movie is “100 percent authentic”.

The Social Network

The Social Network depicts the rise of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. Many people feel that the “hackathon” that takes place in the movie is the most realistic portrayal of modern hacking in a movie.


Where They Got It Wrong


Many people immediately think of this movie when hacking enters the conversation. Some people feel it shows how tedious the process of hacking can be, but the 3D renderings of the data put it into the realm of the unbelievable. This movie was made in 1995, and the makers had high hopes concerning the future of 3D interfaces, which have yet to be realized.

CSI: Cyber

This show follows the format of CSI, but with the focus being cyber crime rather than any other type of crime. Unfortunately, the general feeling is that the ‘experts’ on CSI: Cyber have no idea what they are talking about and do not reflect the increasingly sophisticated security mechanisms that are actually being used in the real world. The show’s use of code also shows irreverence for hackers and other tech experts, indicating a belief that the majority of the audience have no idea what they are looking at when they are presented with code – what is shown is technically incorrect and absolute gibberish.

Live Free or Die Hard

The majority of the cyber-attacks in this movie are portrayed at least slightly inaccurately. But broadly speaking all of the attacks, except one do fall into the realms of reality and are possible from multiple access points or computers. The movie does however misrepresent how people respond to these types of attacks. In real life, they would be a lot more organized and behave far less mindlessly.

See also:6 Important Security Facts About The Hillary Clinton Email Scandal


In Swordfish, Hugh Jackman plays a retired, elite hacker who is approached by an organized crime figure and is forced to do one last hacking job against his will. The hacking is, however, dismal and far from reality. The long hours that go into hacking are not depicted; instead, it is made to look like a computer game.

Now back to reality

We understand that for ISPs, hacking is not an engaging movie to watch one evening – it is a reality they have to fight on a daily basis.

To find out more about how you can proactively protect your ISP from network abuse like hacking, download this free ebook from Abusix.

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