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Breaking Down the Representation of Cybersecurity in Film
More and more films and television shows depict anonymous cybercriminals seeking destruction from afar, but what happens on the big screen doesn't always match reality. With goals of entertainment and a broad audience to attract, unsurprisingly, most films and tv shows on cybersecurity don't get into the nitty-gritty of just how much work goes into what we see accomplished on-screen. This blog explores how the cybersecurity industry has been depicted accurately and inaccurately in media entertainment and the potential impact this has on a global audience.

Media That Got It Right (or at least partially)

While the list of movies and television shows that accurately depict cybersecurity as it truly is in the real world may be short, we are always happy to see it when it does happen. One example is The Matrix. The Matrix is a widely popular Sci-Fi action film franchise that explores human psychology and the complexities of reality amidst action sequences. The series of films are deeply connected to writing code, hacking, and the relationship between humans and AI. In one scene, one of the main characters, Trinity, is shown on-screen using an actual hacking tool. American drama-thriller tv series Mr. Robot also got it right. The team behind Mr. Robot brought in highly credible technical advisors (you might be currently following them on Twitter). Having these individuals serve as a source of truth meant all aspects of the show, down to the minor details and camera shots of what is being shown on computer screens, were actually accurate.

Reducing 'The Hack' to Wizardry

What all films and tv shows have in common is that they never show the 30-100 hours of research that go into pulling off a seamless museum heist or high-stakes casino robbery. Instead, the entire process is demonstrated in an entertaining and exciting montage over a mere few minutes. No matter the challenge, with steadfast confidence, the cyber specialist cracks their knuckles and gets to work. A few seconds later, we hear, "I've got complete route on the device. I'm in." Impressive, right? While it may have taken that long to run the payload, in reality, a lot more time went into actually developing it.

Of course, the goal of any filmmaker is to create engaging content that makes the viewer want to invest their own emotions in the storyline and characters. And to be frank, the real stuff just isn't as exciting as a James Bond movie makes it look. While we can't expect media creators to explain and show everything that goes into a good hack, it is always nice to hear a nod to the workload behind the montage. One example of this comes from the movie, Hackers. In one scene, a character sits in front of his computer, trying to figure out how to recover data. Through dialogue, the scene alludes to the level of work necessary to ensure our character has a good sense of what is going on, understands all of the pieces at play, and only once they know how things are working will they make any progress.  The "a-ha" moment happens next for our characters, and they overcome the previously looming obstacles.

Audience Perceptions of the Real World of Cybersecurity 

In general, the reasons behind the misrepresentation of cybersecurity in the media are not intended to be misleading. Misrepresentation is just a side effect of appealing to a broad audience seeking engaging and exciting content. In truth, everything is potentially hackable if given enough time and resources. That being said, no good comes from harboring an amorphous blob of fear around what nefarious things hackers are capable of doing. Instead, train your staff on real cybersecurity threats, identify your most valuable assets, and work with a penetration testing company to identify potential security vulnerabilities within your physical and digital environments. Schedule a consultation with RedTeam Security today to gain a clear understanding of your security risk.

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