Media images of hackers, movies, newspapers, web pages, and books

Copyright Peter Timusk © 2000

    Hackers are depicted in a variety of movies. The first was War Games in 1984. Here, a teenage boy accidentally cracked into a war-game-playing computer. In Sneakers, a traditional good guy break-in film, high tech companies made an appearance. Ian Fleming's James Bond looked at a Russian hacker in Golden Eye. There is actually a film called Hackers. There are  numerous others, such as  Matrix and Johnny Mnemonic both starring Keanue Reeves, that show hackers in a special effects and dramatic way.
    Hackers are being portrayed in these films as special people to be, and the cops or computer security people are being portrayed (as cops are prone to be in movies) as inept, corrupt or bumbling fools. This does not bode well for the future of computer security. Romanticized images of hackers are going to affect youth and other sensitive audiences.
    Now, in the year 2000, there is TV show called Level 9. Level 9 is the name of a police team that investigates hackers. From the dramatics of this prime time show we can quickly conclude that either most criminals are now aware of the Internet and using it for crime, or that hackers are very dangerous people indeed. This show plays off the already existing images of hackers in the media.
    The Canadian Broadcasting Company has done a news story on Hackers in 2001. Here hackers were shown to have access to Internet connected computers of the journalist and certain victims. As well this story made the claim that anyone could become a hacker by searching for hacker tools on the Internet.
    Newspapers take another view, it seems (based on my reading  of the daily newspaper in my city of Ottawa). 'Hackers are crooks' is the story. Stories of criminal suspects, court cases, and estimations of damages appear with each new virus such as with the Melissa virus or the Love Bug virus. These stories seem generally to be a fair picture, although magazines and investigative articles still use typical biases and border on racist propaganda aimed at supporting the commercial interests of the American computer industry.
    Various web sites such as,, and many others service the hacker community on-line. Most major computer news web sites carry stories of hackers, cases before the courts, and on going investigations. There are also hacker web pages written for the 'good'  hacker defined as someone who writes software and is not criminal. And finally, there are numerous computer security web sites as well that help with users' viruses, and publish accounts of hackers and their cases.
    There are numerous books to learn the art of hacking with computers. As well, the books in my reference section cover hackers in the popular press.

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Copyright Peter Timusk © 2000, 2001. Last updated May 3rd,  2001. Created August 28th, 2000.
Web site for 32.214,  Carleton University.
Course Professor: Diane E. Dubrule Assistant Professor and Web Master Department of Philosophy.