Movie hacks that are very possible

As seen in our previous article, Hollywood doesn’t seem to have a healthy relationship with real life technology, especially when it comes to things like hacking. So, their hacking visuals, their hacks should be alike right? Except the fact that some of those superficial hacks are very much possible. Maybe just not the way the Hollywood has depicted it. Unlikely, it’s even easier than it shown in Hollywood. Not like when Hollywood goes all CGIon movies.

Make an ATM give out cash like there is no tomorrow


Jackpot baby!

Hollywood Hack:

As seen in Terminator 2, Young John Connor –  the kid with a voice makes you fell like they should be having more T-1000s. He plugs in his Atari (you read it right) thing into the ATM. And with a few strokes and some badass scrolling. He jackpots the ATM.


Well, hacking anything with this is an achievement.

It’s that time, when you just know that James Cameron made that up. If hacking ATMs was THAT easily. People would’ve been doing it all the time. Criminals won’t be spending time in trying to crack open the ATM. At least they wouldn’t be taking the whole thing in the process.

Real-World hack:

It turns out jackpotting an ATM is easier than John made it look. Even in a reality where Atari laptops aren’t that conveniently available.

Once, criminals in Pittsburg tweaked the ATM to make it think that it was dispensing $1 when it’s dispensing $20. Without plugging in an Atari laptop (or any other in this case). They did it just by using the built-in keyboard on the ATM. Making their hacking look like someone is just “taking their time” in taking out the damn cash!

Another similar incident happened in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where crooks were able to reprogram the ATM using (wait for it). The instruction manual intact with default administrative passwords, posted online by the manufacturer of the ATM. By doing so they make themselves look less like someone who secures transactions. But more like come and get us if you can.

There were the crimes, and then, there was a demonstration at annual hacker convention, Black Hat in 2010. Security consultant (who “hacks for a living”) Barnaby Jack, compromised the ATM by not one, but two ways. By plugging in a USB drive. And by injecting the his “mesh” over the internet. He didn’t only got all the cash out of the time in no time. But also made it display the word “Jackpot” intact with a catchy tune. Now that’s called “hacking with style”.

Hacking traffic lights


Smooth hackin’

Hollywood Hack:

In the remake of Italian Job, they needed to create a jam for some heist. That I just don’t wanna go through, until to forwards to the chase. So, our best movie hacker, Seth Green breaks into the traffic lights networks via the public WiFi hotspot and turned all lights green permanently. Creating a massive traffic jam.


Hacking those? Sure, why not?

It’s again on the list of things Hollywood think a computer can do, over a public WiFi. The idea sounds pretty silly, cause if hackers can get into any machine on internet. If that’s so, why hackers haven’t shut down the civilization yet?

Real-World Hack:

In 2006, Los Angeles was in middle of a heated contract negotiation with its traffic engineers. After the union representing traffic engineers declared on their day of strike, “Los Angeles is not going to be a fun place to drive”, city official though about playing it safe. And blocked out the engineers’ access to the traffic control system.


Is locking them out really a nice solution?

They just missed on a little obvious fact. The people who were blocked out, designed the goddamn system. So two of the engineers on strike – Kartik Patel and Gabriel Murillo. Take out their laptops and proceeded to hack into the system to work on their threat of removing all fun from driving in LA. Which is not that much of a threat. People will be like yeah, go ahead, try to do that.

Okay, back to the point. By using their knowledge of city traffic patterns. They chose a few intersections and made red lights stay lit a little longer. This seemingly simple and insignificant change, caused massive traffic problem for next couple of days. So, if in late August 2006, you were rated 3 on punctuality, or had to spend too much in reimbursements for you “relationship damages” these were the guys you should thank.


Happy driving.

So what’s next? Can they just hack into any machine? Will they just hack my car with their iPhone, hilarious, right?

Stealing a Car via an iPhone

Hollywood Hack:

In “The Boost Job” episode of the TNT series, resident hacker Hardison needs to help Blonde One steal a shiny new BMW as a proof of that they are well, “car hacker”. So how does a cable-tv-hacker breaks into a car? By tapping like a person who’s mad at his boss and telling the whole story to his significant other. Poor fellow. And open the trunk(by mistake) and then the door without the alarm going off.


So, that’s an option when I forget my keys.

It’s just another lazy scene you’d except a television screenwriter who’s completely out of touch with technology to dream of. If you’ve read this far, you know where this is going.

Real-World Hack:

Yeah, you guessed it right this time. In the real world(unexpectedly) it works almost the same way.

All those whistle, face recognition systems, keyless entry, automated rear cannon and other things a modern car comes equipped with, are connected to a cellular phone network. Those devices have their own identity, hence, phone number. Unlike when you receive an unwanted text, you can block it and make sure that your message will make sender understand that. As we use all-caps real English for that instead of text-lang. Your poor can, unfortunately doesn’t have that capability.

Researchers at iSEC Partners demonstrated just that, with a quick few text messages sent to a Subaru Outback, they could unlock the car, start it up and add it as a friend of facebook. So, theoretically, a hacker can use a sniffing tool to listen to messages going around the car. Helping the hacker to figure out the car’s personal phone number and proceed to hack it with the messages. So, that’s definitely an idea to think about when you’re drooling over that fully loaded Lamborghini.


Sure, let’s do it!

But what if people report it? You may be on the national television. Don’t want this to be on TV. Well, then this one’s for you.

Hijack a TV Station


I wonder what TV station guys would be watching.

Hollywood Hack:

Even in a fictional world, people still for some reason, love television. That’s a mystery why did they kill YouTube and Netflix? We’ll never know. So what if a not-gonna-take-this-shit protagonist decides it can’t take they controlling of mindless masses anymore. Let’s hack the damn TV station then.


That’s bad-ass though.

Surely, it can’t be that simple to hack an entire television station and broadcast whatever hell they want? Not unless they’ve hijacked the control room. Otherwise wouldn’t Anonymous be constantly interrupting children’s TV programs with clips of people doing helicopter?

Real-world hack:

Actually it’s apparently easier than it is to be thought. It all might’ve started with Captain Midnight. No, Captain Midnight isn’t some shitty comic that you’ll do literally anything else than to read it. Captain Midnight is a satellite dish store owner John MacDougall of Ocala, Florida. Oops, we revealed his real identity.

Back in 1986, Cap was making tons of greens by letting people intercept signals of premium cable companies, allowing them to watch the programming for free. But soon enough, HBO caught on and scrambled their signal so that satellite dish users would have to start paying like others.

That’s when Captain Midnight kicked into the crime-fighting mode. He hijacked HBO’s signal at 12:30 a.m. apparently when he thought everyone would be watching. The paid channel delivered Captain’s message rather than the scheduled movie.


Seems, even. Still, that’s way too much space between “month” and “question mark”.

HBO immediately relented from their capitalist ways and became free for all satellite dish owners. Captain was able to take an early retirement with piles of cash generated from selling satellite dishes. Then when he woke up from the dream. He received a $5,000 fine, an year of probation and lifetime of being referred by a comical nickname that sounds like a comic that everyone would buy after every last Marvel and DC copy has been sold out.

Your school records

Hollywood Hack:


I wish I knew that earlier.

Apparently in ’80s casting directors thought “Now that’s a hacker (if I ever saw one in real life)” cause it was ’80s  and probably they’ve never seen what an actual hacker looks like. But ever since watching Broderick adjust his grades in WarGames, entire generations of students have dreamed of typing a few keywords on a green screen to bump up their grades.

But dammit, hacking is hard in real life. And in fact, if someone’s smart enough to hack into a school’s computer system, then they probably didn’t need help with their grades.

Real-world hack:

But hey, we are in the age of outsourcing. And of course, it doesn’t get any easier than paying someone else to do it for you.

Several students at Palos Verdes High School discovered the wonders of outsourcing. When they paid a group of three entrepreneurial high school juniors to do their hacking for them. The juniors had installed keystroke logger on their teachers’ computers to intercept their usernames and passwords, and then charged other students up to $300 to hack in and bump up the grade by one level.

But Tyler Coyner, a high school student in Nevada really takes the cake. Coyner was running his own one-man grade-hacking ring. Changing his classmates grades for cash. But when it comes to adjusting his own grades, Coyner wasn’t satisfied with a little shitty bump. He went on to make himself the class salutatorian. Presumably he was going for valedictorian, but ironically, screwed up the math.


That’s a nice mugshot.

But you know, a lie cannot be hidden for long. Ultimately the school authorities found out about his stunt and the student who genuinely put in the hard work to earn the honor took his proper place in as the class salutatorian come graduation. Yeah, just kidding – here’s a video of Coyner’s acceptance speech:

P.S. He was arrested after 2 semesters in college. And now on a 5 year probation.


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