When you watch computer scientists interact in some movies, it’s like the scriptwriters were playing a wildly improbable game of Mad Libs, choosing their nouns, verbs, etc. from a designated list of computer terms like “overclock,” “DDOS,” and “handshake.”
But it doesn’t matter, because whatever cyber disasters the world throws at them, the cyber heroes of the movies can cope, even if they have to MacGyver a solution together from Scotch tape, a SIM card, and Liquid Paper.
For example …
Long-time favorite leading man Harrison Ford plays Jack Stanfield, the wealthy chief of security at Landrock Pacific Bank in the 2006 film Firewall. Now, if you happen to work in security, you may have been thrown off by the use of “wealthy” and “chief of security” referring to the same person. But his wife is an architect, so perhaps we can assume she got rich designing something major, like the Sochi Olympic Village or something. Or maybe Jack Stanfield is just that good. Indeed, he transmits data to someone using a fax scanner head and an iPod. Not only that, through the time-honored hacking technique of typing really fast, he implements rule changes in a bank security system to throw off a hacker with nary a typo. Some computer experts, however, could no longer suspend their disbelief upon seeing every tech worker in Seattle wearing a suit to work.
In the 1996 hit movie Independence Day, Jeff Goldblum’s character David Levinson is an environmentalist, a satellite technician, a chess expert, and happens to be a computer genius with an education from MIT. Just like everyone in your IT department, right? So brilliant are Levinson’s technological skills that he not only transcends the differences between, say, Macs and PCs, but between terrestrial and extra-terrestrial mainframes. All he had to do to bring down the shields on the alien ship was write a bit of malware, upload it to the alien mainframe, and hope they didn’t have Norton or McAfee antivirus protection. (Spoiler: They didn’t!)
Are you old enough to have watched War Games, the 1983 film starring Matthew Broderick, when it first came out? If so, you may have wondered how you spent a solid week typing in “PEEKs” and “POKEs” on your Commodore Vic 20 to create a word processing program (and that’s interpreting both “word” and “processing” very loosely) while Broderick’s David Lightman managed to hack the US nuclear arsenal with practically the same machine. You might have trouble today, in 2014, with eleventy billion apps at your fingertips, making your computer play tic-tac-toe against itself, which is what they had to do to stop nuclear annihilation back in the day. Well, maybe your problem is, as your parents always told you, you were smart, but you didn’t apply yourself.
Times have changed, and tech-focused agencies like NASA now use Windows XP.
Live Free or Die Hard
In the 2007 thriller Live Free or Die Hard, Matt Farrell (played by Justin Long), is IIOStapped by the NYPD’s John McClane (Bruce Willis) to stop cyber terrorists that are killing hackers and taking control of pretty much the country’s entire infrastructure. Through the magic of McClane shaking some sense into him, Farrell turns into a useful sidekick, predicting the bad guys’ moves, wielding “math based security,” and eventually killing the chief terrorist’s henchman Emerson.
What lessons can we take away from computer-based disasters in movies? A few things. First of all, aliens are not big on malware protection, so use this to your advantage when confronting spaceship computer systems. Also, if you try hard enough, you can make an electronic device that can do what your brand new iPad Air can’t, and you can do it with items found in the average office. But mostly we can take away the fact that yes, computer experts can be actual heroes, though in a real life IT service desk, it’s not always as flashy as on screen.
While waiting for your chance to save the world from aliens, online bank thieves, nuclear catastrophe, or infrastructure meltdown, you can be the hero your organization needs, with Samanage IT service management software. At any time, you can know the status of any piece of hardware or software in your system, use remote desktop control to fix end-user problems, and generally keep your organization’s IT infrastructure working properly. To your internal IT customer, you’ll be a superhero, minus the cape.