Cyber Security in the Media: How Accurate Are Our Favorite Shows and Movies? Published October 18, 2019

hacker attacking computer with a crowbarCyber security and network breaches have become commonplace among the breaking news headlines in recent years. Major companies like Target, Equifax, Yahoo, and MySpace have all fallen victim to hacking schemes, exposing the personal information of millions of people worldwide. In fact, damages caused by global cyber-attacks are expected to exceed $2 trillion by the end of 2019.

Protecting sensitive data and preventing hackers from gaining access to personal information are at the forefront of businesses’ and consumers’ concerns. Therefore, it’s no wonder many television networks and movie producers have included the concept of hacking in our favorite shows and blockbuster films. There are even shows, like Mr. Robot and CSI: Cyber, that revolve solely around hacking and fighting cybercrime.

Cyber Security on Television and in Film

With society’s growing fascination with cyber security, we asked some of our cyber security students their thoughts on how cyber security is portrayed in the media and there was one overarching sentiment: it’s overplayed. While cyber security is a growing concern, our students agreed the networks and movie producers may have given it more entertainment value than it’s worth. However, with technology evolving at its current pace and hackers adapting more and more sophisticated techniques, this trend probably won’t go away anytime soon, especially since hacking has been a common theme in movies since computers hit the scene in the 1980s.

Our students also acknowledged that most hacking seen on television or in the movies is made to look much more exciting than it actually does in real life. With flashing screens, exciting graphics, and deep dives into the inner workings of our computers, the media portrays an otherwise drab task as intense and dramatic–making it worth watching for their audiences. Since the general population wouldn’t understand what a hacker is actually doing on TV, students agree it adds entertainment value and will let this one slide.

The media also plays into the stereotype that hackers are young, “nerdy” kids who just happen to be good at computers and breaking through firewalls. Our students added that not every guy who’s good at using computers necessarily knows how to hack into one—which is what the shows on TV might make you think.

Hacking in Real Life

While hacking and cybercrime may not be as dramatic as they seem on television, they are a real threat. Most of the time you won’t notice you’re being hacked, and you may not even realize it’s happening until years later.

When your bank account is hacked, you’ll likely notice right away or as soon as your bank alerts you to the fraudulent activity. But when your computer is hacked, the hacker can gain access using malware and lurk in the background using your computer as a botnet—a collection of internet-connected devices that are infected and controlled by a common type of malware—without you even knowing.

From our smart thermostats and refrigerators to our watches and vacuum cleaners, most new technologies can be connected to the internet in some way or another. The problem is, anything connected to the internet can be used to create a botnet, creating more opportunities for hackers to gain access to our personal networks. Botnets can be used to send spam, engage in fraud campaigns online, and even generate malicious traffic for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks—in which botnets are used to attack a specific target, such as a server, website, or other network resource.

For these reasons and more, it’s important to take precautions to secure your devices from hackers at home, school, and work.

Cyber Security Tips

We asked our students for their top tips to protect your devices from invasive hackers—here’s what they said:

  • Don’t click on unknown links – If you’re not sure where a link is going to take you, it’s safer to not click on it at all. Hackers are notorious for using malicious links in emails and unsecured websites to try to get people to unknowingly install malware on their computer. An easy trick is to hover over links to see where that link will actually take you.


  • Keep your computer and software up-to-date – By making sure to frequently update your operating system and software, you’ll keep hackers from accessing your computer through vulnerabilities in programs or software that are out-of-date. This includes security programs and antivirus and anti-malware software. Just because they’re installed on your computer doesn’t mean they will protect you, especially if you don’t have the most recent version.


Most programs have an auto-update function that will automatically install updates and fixes when they’re released. This is an easy way to keep your computer in tip-top shape.


  • Keep your passwords secure – Don’t save your passwords in an easy-to-find location. If you have your passwords written on a sticky-note on your desk, you’re basically inviting someone to unknowingly access your computer. Try using a secure password manager, like LastPass, that saves your passwords in one secure location.


On the same note, it’s a good idea to use unique passwords for each program, website, computer, or software that you log in to. When you use the same password to log in to everything, it’s easier for hackers to gain access to your different accounts.


  • Use common sense – In the end, it comes down to using common sense while online. Don’t trust emails that seem sketchy or ask you to change your password if you didn’t request the change. Don’t visit unsecure sites or click on advertisements that look like spam.

Cybercrime is growing exponentially, with the need for workers growing each year. Interested in cyber security and want to learn more about protecting yourself and others from hackers? Learn more about our Cyber Security program or apply to Rose State College today.