Strange but true: October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, intended to inform the American public that the Internet is dangerous and terrible and maybe people are going to come into your house through the computer and steal everything you own, or something. (Okay, identity theft and cyber security are, admittedly, more serious than I’m making them out to be, but still.) In light of that fact, it seems important to check up on just what kind of dangers the Internet present to the modern world. Consider these suggestions below important homework.
Remembered as much for an early appearance by Angelina Jolie as anything else, Hackers suffers from a surfeit of 1990s cool and a deficit of common sense, but it deserves some plaudits for being ahead of the curve when it came to realizing how much trouble society could be in from computers — especially when Matthew Lillard is involved.
THE NET (1995)
Just how dangerous is the cyber world? So dangerous that, even before the Internet was as ubiquitous as it is now, Sandra Bullock could still find herself embroiled in a conspiracy that could lead to crashing planes, beached dinghies and mysteriously re-assigned social security numbers. Where will it all end?
TRACK DOWN (2000)
By the turn of the century, everyone was far more savvy about what the World Wide Web could offer — which makes the existence of this thriller, in which Skeet Ulrich plays real-life hacker Kevin Mitnick in an increasingly ridiculous cat-and-mouse chase with the authorities, all the more inexplicable. Shouldn’t someone have said something?
BEN X (2007)
The perils of bullying — and the potential for salvation offered online — are on show in this Belgian thriller inspired by real-life events. Admittedly, the true inspiration doesn’t have quite an unexpectedly complicated denouement (no spoilers, but be prepared to roll your eyes), but there’s a point to this story, in between all the melodrama.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009)
Sorry, Angelina and Sandra — Noomi Rapace is arguably the most famous cinematic hacker of recent times (at least since War Games’ Matthew Broderick) thanks to the success of Stieg Larsson’s nihilistic thriller trilogy, and the original movie adaptations that followed (The less said about the David Fincher U.S. remake, the better). Lisabeth Salander might have lived in some readers’ minds before this, but Rapace’s performance made her real.
UNDERGROUND: THE JULIAN ASSANGE STORY (2012)
If you’re looking for the true story behind the career of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, where better to get it than an Australian TV movie loosely based on a book Assange helped research? Okay, sure; there might be better sources to go to, but none as shamelessly entertaining as this, trust me.
Education is the best weapon when it comes to preparing the general populace against cyber attack, which explains why this 2012 web series — co-created with assistance from Norton Anti-Virus, as surreal as that sounds — exists. Cyber crimes get explained and defeated, thanks to preparation and foreknowledge. Well, kind of.
It’s kill or be killed in this techno thriller that sets a hacker and a reporter against something even better at computers than they are — an artificial intelligence that has decided that its best chance of success involves getting rid of the entire human race. (Note: we’ll have to wait 10 years or so before this is a legitimate cyber security threat. But rest assured, it’s coming.)
PERSON OF INTEREST (2013)
Did you know that computers can predict the future? No wonder they’re a threat — especially with Linus from Lost and one-time Jesus Jim Caviezel helping out by delivering snark and punches where zeroes and ones just won’t do. The only TV show that mixes procedural conspiracy crime and singularity prophecies, POI is worth a month’s worth of warnings all by itself.
CYBERCRIMES WITH BEN HAMMERSLEY (2014)
Finally, some calm, considered and British perspective on just how dangerous cyber attack actually can be, thanks to this six-part series originally intended as part of an educational course on the topic. Dry, just a little worrying and enough to make you reconsider 2-step authentication as a concept you should perhaps embrace.