Monday, February 27, 2012

Reviewing the Geek Twins Top Nine Shocking Phone Hacks in the Science-Fiction Universe

In looking for interesting news about Phone Hacks I came across this great list put together last summer about the Top Nine Shocking Phone Hacks in the Science-Fiction Universe by the site The Geek Twins

Now, to be honest, Humbug Telecom can not stop any of these (yet), but I thought I would discuss a few of them anyway as the Geek Twins seem to have gotten the facts wrong in most cases.

Now their list is deliberately limited to "only includes interception of communication not intended for the recipient."

9. Transformers (2005)  -  U.S. Hacks message to Decepticons

The Decepticons have a open-and-shut case of illegal phone hacking. There's not a Cybertronian court in the universe that would acquit them.
This is case of an extralegal wire tap more than a hack. Given that the US has "given" its self the right to do this against its own citizens (constitution be damned) post 9/11 it is not surprising that they would use it against an alien terrorist group.

8. Contact (1997) -  Scientist hacks alien signal to Earth

This is less clear a problem oh hacking as much a case of a bad header. I mean think about it, they sent it as a general broadcast and only one station (person) received it, kind of like tuning into an FM radio station. It was broadcast for whom ever want / could receive it - so no hacking or fraud there.

7. Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986) -  Earth hacks message for whales

Again, a general broadcast that they could pickup but the intended recipient was unavailable (OK extinct ), so the remaining Enterprise crew go off in time to get someone that could respond. So also not a hack in the traditional sense.

6. Independence Day (1996) -  Goldblum hacks signal to alien invaders

Now here is another case of illegal intercept - or is it? The aliens hacked and hijacked the satellites first, committing subscription fraud. Then Jeff  Goldblum, working for the communications carrier, investigated and moved to stop the fraud - all legal on his side so far. But then, without a court order, he went and hacked the communications server to install malicious code to take the server down.  Not exactly proper procedure for dealing with fraudsters, but it was effective (and saved the Earth too).

This one Humbug might have caught, as it was effectively an inappropriate call to a Premium (satellite).

5. Signs (2002) -  Family hacks signal to alien invaders

This one the Geek Twins got right, it was a case of inappropriate use of spectrum without authorization, and as what has recently happened to LightSquared (for just maybe affecting GPS frequencies) shows this was against the law. The family receiving and then hacking are similar to the examples above.

4. Terminator 2 -  Terminator hacks phone message to dead mother

Now here we have the precursor to the Rubert Murdoc News of the World story. Someone hacked the messages of a dead person and then made their family think that they were alive. This was bad enough that it caused the oldest news company to go out of business and several members to be charged with crimes.  So this is definite case of hacking.

3. I Come in Peace (1990) -  Evil alien hacks message to good aliens

Not so much a case of illegal intercept as one of false advertising. Let's be honest, the original message was a general broadcast so his receiving it was no different than the other examples above. His real crime was telling people he came in peace when he was out to kill them.

2. Serenity -  Criminals hack message to government

Another case of improper intercept, but with the Wiki-leaks aspect thrown in to complicate it. Even though it was done with good intentions this could result in either a medal of honor or a military tribunal.

1. Star Wars: A New Hope -  Man hacks message to friend

Is it hacking when the transport deliberately leaks the message  to get help? It is not like Luke had to say the password, use a screw driver, or anything else to get the messaged played for him. Now once he heard it and asked for it to play again he was in less clear legality as he knew it was not for him - kind of like having someone's mail fall out of a damaged envelope and then reading it even after you knew it was not for you.

All images taken from the original Geek Twins post, which they attributed as follows:
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