As part of Science Week, RTÉ has produced “Hacked” – a look into cyber-security and its impact on everyday users. Considering Science Week is about growing the excitement that surrounds technology, RTÉ has just scared the shite out of a nation.

Hacked sets the tone

Frankly, the 90’s movie “Hackers” is actually a little less cringy than Keelin Shanley’s attempt to provide an unbiased view into the dangers of technology. Being careful online is bloody important and we’re not making light of that. Some viewers of “Hacked” would be forgiven for never going near a computer again. The show isn’t about teaching viewers how to stay safe – as would be expected in the spirit of Science Week. Instead, this show is an hour long attempt to drive the general public a mile away from their smartphone.

The fear factor

“It’s not about if you get hacked, it’s about when you get hacked”

That is an actual quote from the show. A complete fabrication building on a vague term “hacked”. We recently showed you how easily your data could be caught up in a data leak. At the same time, we were quick to highlight that the likelihood of you being picked from this leak is along the lines of winning the lotto. For this, your data would need to appear in the “deep web”, which typically “Hacked” refers to by it’s much more sinister title, the “dark web”.  The “deep web” is an area of the internet which needs specific online tools to access.

There are some important bits

USB drop is a cool and important lesson, if not a little James Bond-like. It did look like Keelin Shanley was fulfilling a life goal of being a super-spy. Again, don’t let us take from the importance of the lesson here. USB drops are a very real threat, but “Hacked” didn’t want the take away less to be “don’t plug random USBs into your computer”. Instead, the moral of this story is “from the point of view of a business or a firm, you can do all you like in terms of security, but as long as you’ve got employees […] there’s no real security”.

Well, not really. You can set PCs to reject unknown USB devices, or, as this six-year-old article shows, reject USB connections altogether. “Hacked” continued to look at Stuxnet, which is a fascinating story, we massively recommend looking into.

… but there was some madness

The topic of “hacking” medical devices brings us to bullshit quote of the evening. Head of Cyber Investigations at Grant Thornton, Andy Harbison, normally considered rather reputable, just had a total brain fart on TV. I his defense, he did struggle to finish his sentence, likely remembering it’s a storyline from the show Homeland.

… and some sanity

Thankfully this was followed by Dr. Wendy Belluomini, Director of IBM Research Ireland. Yes, IBM is still a thing. Dr. Belluomini brought us “please touch reality” quote of the night. Shanley, suggested that connecting the devices and technologies of our world will always be accompanied by the fears that it’s “hackable”.

It’s hackable if you don’t do it correctly. I don’t want to say this is a thing people should be afraid of, because it isn’t. It is something people have to be careful about.

What should you take away from “Hacked”?

Something you don’t have to be scared about, but something you have to be careful about. This right here, should be the single motive of this show. Not just because it’s Science Week, but because technology is one of the single greatest things to happen to humanity. When you get behind the wheel of your car, you are at risk of being involved in an accident or hitting someone looking to commit fraud. You still drive. You drive because it’s faster than walking. It’s more fun than walking and because we humans love nothing more than finding a better way to do things. Apply the same logic to technology and online.

Do watch “Hacked”. It’s got some valuable tips on security and tricks here and there. But please watch it with your sensible cap on, not the tin-foil hat theories that the show’s producers were looking to exploit with the show.

Whoa there! While we have you…

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