Prompted by this question Why are computer hackers shown to either be geniuses, or show them doing it in fantastic ways? I trawled my brain to find any examples I could remember of anything resembling realistic hacking or cracking in a movie.

I struggled.

Then I remembered some scenes from the entertaining Sneakers where things didn't seem like magic and looked like they took some effort. Ironically, given the question, the password cracking was necessary

to access a new technology that would enable easy cracking of passwords.

(It's an old movie but I didn't want to spoil a key plot development.)

So my question is this: were the techniques deployed in Sneakers realistic? And, for completeness, what were they? (I haven's seen it for a while)

  • Are you talking about when they are trying to access the "black box"?
    – jonsca
    Jan 26, 2012 at 3:31
  • If you want a realistic hacking movie try Takedwon that's actually based on a true story: the story of the capture of computer hacker "Kevin Mitnick" also known as "The Condor".
    – Advicer
    Jan 26, 2012 at 7:46
  • 1
    The movie is old, but it's not THAT old. I mean, I saw it in the theater, so it couldn't be... er, never mind :P Jan 26, 2012 at 15:55
  • @jonsca The scenes where I thought I saw some proper effort were about trying to hack into the computer system of the inventor of the "black-box".
    – matt_black
    Jan 26, 2012 at 19:43
  • I would be interested to know if the maths behind the black box is feasible.
    – EdChum
    Mar 14, 2012 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


I love the movie Sneakers, and although I haven't seen it in a long time, I still remember the movie quite well (I espeically like Ben Kingsley shouting "MARTYYYYYY!" lol)

  • Whistler used his hearing to be able to distinguish different tones. This is actually based on some reality, as there was a story of hackers who managed to make free phone calls by getting the switchboard to think it was receiving a signal from the parent company - here's the article I read recently.

  • Mother was the electronics guy, essentially the other half of a person if you need to hack into the phone system.

  • Carl and Crease didn't look like they did much, other than helping with strategy and breaking into places

  • As far as the black box, in theory it could be possible to make such a device, though I imagine that if such a device DID exist, we wouldn't know about it.

  • Finally, they did an episode of Mythbusters where they tested some of the ways they could get around some of the devices in Cosmo's office. Sad to say, those ways were shown to be busted, I.E. they only worked in the movie.

  • The whole thing about defeating the thermal sensors in Cosmo's office was a bit silly (though wasn't there a recent myth busters where things like fingerprint and voice scanners were disturbingly easily cracked? What I was actually thinking about in the question was the original attempts to break into the system the inventor of the black box used.
    – matt_black
    Jan 26, 2012 at 19:43
  • 4
    +1 I'm impressed by your memory. Ironically you don't mention the only thing I could remember: Liz's terrible date with Brandes to obtain the recorded sentence "Hi, my name is Werner Brandes. My voice is my passport. Verify Me." Jan 26, 2012 at 21:39
  • @GertArnold, yeah, I forgot to mention that bit. What I find a bit funny is that Liz didn't have to make such a big thing about getting Werner to say "Passport", she could have talked about going on a trip, then stumbled at the word "passport" and Werner - being the gentleman he is (lol) - would have said it for her. Jan 27, 2012 at 8:12
  • @BarryHammer Yes, probably, maybe less fun though. But on-topic: I doubt if a recorded and warped sentence from a tiny speaker could pass for the real voice. Jan 27, 2012 at 8:22
  • 1
    @GertArnold, good point. But then again, this was a movie that told us that as long as a room is 98 degrees, you won't trip a heat sensor (when you think about it, it'd be virtually impossible to get it exactly right - a person's body temperature varies throughout their body, so such a sensor would trip when it detected the lower temps on a person's body) Jan 27, 2012 at 9:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .