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US Students Train To Be Cyberspies


I’m going to be saying “Cyber” a lot today. I’m as upset about it as you are. But there’s something awesome going down at the University of Tulsa. Basically, they’ve created themselves a spy factory. Digital spy. Ugh. Yes. Cyberspy. Students are being taught to how to be awesome spies and basically try to spy on each other as training.

Stalking one another isn’t just allowed in the Cyber Corps program — it’s part of the curriculum. Students not only hack each other, but they plant tracking devices, mine data from broken cell phones, and write viruses that can steal data from unsuspecting networks.

The vast majority of graduates end up going to the NSA, with most others going to the CIA. The two-year course has been overwhelmingly successful, to the point that these kids solved a local murder by cracking a suspect’s  e-mail account and finding connections between him and his victims.

The nerds are taking over. You might think that it’s pretty Hollywood, except the reality is that we out in Los Angeles don’t have a damn clue how hacking works. Let’s take a look at a few movies that do it incredibly wrong.

Live Free Or Die Hard

Oh, yeah. While in general, the hacking scenes are ridiculous — for starters, Timothy Olyphant, who is a badass personified and does his best with this martial — what’s even worse is the “final goal.” After 9/11, apparently the government created a national backup in a super secret server.

What’s the backup of? Everything. Financial, banking and social security. Everything. You could put it on a portable disk, make transfers that are totally untraceable.

It’s entirely impossible. The data is so decentralized, and cloud computing has rendered a full, one-location backup irrelevant. And if there was a national backup, one would think that after the initial crash, the US government could’ve just… y’know, reverted to the day before.



I love Skyfall. I love it. But the hacking scenes are just damn ridiculous. Q tries to break into Silver’s personal data, with a gorgeous physical representation of all the files in his system, wherein when it’s cracked, it becomes a map of London. Apparently while he was planning the utter destruction of the British government, he also did some work in Adobe After Effects.


Mission: Impossible

The NOC List is the Macguffin here, but with the world starting to get onto the Internet, De Palma decides to show off the IBM Thinkpad by having Ethan Hunt search for an arms dealer known as Max, with nothing to go on but an operation known as Job 3:14. While the images on his laptop screen look way cool (for 1996), what Ethan’s actually doing is using a search engine.

He even typed in “” thinking that it would work. At least it didn’t work, I guess? But Ethan posted on a Bible message board referring to Job 3:14 and that super got Max’s attention. An arms dealer found him through a random, vague message board post that just referenced the Bible verse. It worked, but it did absolutely zero for operational security.


Question: What terrible movie hacking have you seen?