I just finished watching The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off from the X-files, revolving around the team of hacker/wizzkids that sometimes help out Mulder and Scully in the X-files. Well, I suppose the title says enough about my first impression about it.
Sure, the X-files was unbelievable sometimes, or really impossible to even grasp what they were intending, but The Lone Gunmen is just a joke. Just read the following :
We gotta hack into the DoD (Department of Defense) mainframe. Moments later they're in. They start looking for a file called Scenario 12-D, and they find it within seconds. When they start downloading the plain text file someone at the DoD starts tracing the intruders (them). In a fraction of seconds they are identified by IP address and connection method (DSL). Yet the download of the text file takes minutes to complete, get real!
The DoD starts more agressive investigations, and starts scanning all the files on the computer of TLG, finds a file called userdata.ini and starts reading it. Oh no! We can't let that happen, they'll know our address! Let's compromise the cookie! (Finally they end up pulling the power cable to avoid detection).
TLG supposed to be wizzkids, hackers, whitehats? ROFLMAO! Over a DSL connection even downloading 500kb would only 2 or 3 seconds, and a 500kb text file contains a huge amount of data. Cookies have got nothing to do with the thing they were trying at all, and a file called userdata.ini? Provided it would exist, what a sorry excuse for a hacker would you be if you allowed it to contain your true address? No to mention how stupid you'd have be to not prevent anyone from scanning files on your computer?
If you want to hack into a secured system, there are a few ways of doing it, but all of them take at least a few hours, unless you want to get caught within 5 minutes after starting. You could social engineer yourself into the system, as in quite a lot of cases the human is the weakest link, or provided you'd go for a brute force or exploit based attack, you'd always want to put some systems between you and the target system.
A possible route would be (I don't know the DoD nor the setup of their systems, this is just logical thinking) : hack into the fire department systems, then hop over to the local police systems, from there one go up a level to federal police and finally access the DoD systems.
Go from an unsecured or weak system and use those as a base to start attacks to systems that'll get you what you need. This takes time and/or preparation, and while I know you can't show all that in a TV series, this just tells people that computers are unsafe or hackers can do anything they want. Both statements are false.
The series is a joke, really. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it... A plane was being hijacked by means of remote control, because someone uploaded an incorrect flight plan into the automatic pilot, and it couldn't be overruled. What do our Lone Gunmen do? They send a fax to the airline company and suddenly have a carrier into the flight navigation system. Right. Why not?!
They start hacking the system to enable the manual override commands, but they can't break the code because their systems ain't powerful enough. Luckily, another hacker had stolen a brand new chip called Opticon IV (which has lots of data and privacy intruding measurements built in, apart from lots of gigiflops of computing power) so they get her to give them the chip, and thanks to that manage with seconds to spare to hand back control of the plane to the pilots, who scrape the top of the World Trade Center.
How original. Apart from the fact that the Opticon sounds suspiciously like the Operton although I think they tried to make a reference to the Pentium IV, planes flying into towers doesn't fly too well with certain parts of the world I think. And slamming a totally new processor into your old system to get increased computing power? Sure, again : why not?
The Lone Gunmen serie is a friggin' joke for anyone who even has the slightest clue about technology and computers. Good thing for them that I ain't on a review board that decides about pilots of shows to be...