WARNING: Mild jargon warning
Hello, peeps, aReallyLoudFangirl here! I’m a university student majoring in Computer Science. When I first started watching dramas, I had zero experience in the field. However, something about those “hacking” scenes just didn’t feel right to me. So today, I’ll be showcasing the few main types of “computer science” I’ve seen in dramas, and how realistic they are! Hooray! :)
In many of the dramas that I’ve seen, there’s always that tense moment where a character has to “hack” into a computer to download something off of or onto a computer. Now, the dramas make the “hacking” look very fancy with dramatic music, tight shots, and the character is in danger of being caught any second. But... is it that hard?
Let’s break down those scenes, shall we?
Mad Dog (Kdrama), Episode 1
All of these scenes include a USB. Most of the time, the USB is just plugged into the PC. It doesn’t take a CS major to realize that downloading files from a PC onto a USB isn’t as complicated as dramas make it seem. Most of the time, the files that characters are downloading are pictures, spreadsheets, things that aren’t “protected” files.
A protected file is a file that you need a password or some sort of “key” to open – that means that a character can still transfer to file to a USB, they just won’t be able to open it. If a character wanted to access one of these files, they would need to hack into the file, but not at the scene of the crime.
Scenes involving USBs don’t always have characters downloading something from a computer. Sometimes, a character is uploading malware onto a computer.
My Husband in Law (Lakorn), Episode 4
As drama watchers, many of us should already know how much nasty malware there are (since we’ve all been on a few fishy websites for our dramas). You can get a virus on your computer by clicking a shady pop-up ad or downloading a seemingly innocent video. So by simply uploading malware onto a PC using a USB, your job should be done!
However, most of the time, dramas don’t even show the actual uploading of the virus. What do I mean? Well, you see this fancy loading screen saying “uploading virus”, but do you usually see the steps of downloading the virus? Nope.
The fancy loading screens of some viruses also make me laugh. A virus should work silently in the background. What if someone walks in on you uploading the virus onto their device? They’re going to see this huge loading screen telling them that their device is infected with a virus. I understand that these loading screens are there so that viewers have an easier time understanding what is going on, but I always get a good laugh out of them.
My Husband in Law (Lakorn), Episode 4
Ignoring the fancy loading screen, some dramas have managed to surprise me with their accurate depictions of malware. Yes, some viruses, like trojans, just steal your information and run in the background. However, if you want a destructive virus that will mess around with a computer, the screen of the computer can become filled with error messages and random symbols as the computer runs the malware.
Personally, if I wanted to get rid of data from a computer, I would just factory reset it or destroy the hardware, but malware looks cooler.
Hacking Government Databases
The scenes in dramas that raise the most eyebrows for me are when a government database is hacked into.
Legend of the Blue Sea (Kdrama), Episode 1
Hacking into something like a traffic light system is a huge deal as it could cause massive traffic as well as accidents. So the security of these systems is crazy. By the time that the drama’s fancy “loading” screen is completed, police would already be on their way to apprehend the hacker. In lots of dramas, the government doesn’t even seem to care that they were hacked. Most of the time, the government only takes action to add more tension to the plot. The sad reality is that most computer scientists in dramas are just there to help the plot move along. My Holo Love (Kdrama), Episode 6
Whenever characters do get caught for hacking, they’re let off easy because they’re rich and have fancy attorneys.
If hacking into systems like traffic lights and CCTV were as easy as it seems in dramas, then there’d be a successful hacking attempt every other day and society as we know it would be in chaos.
Leverage (Kdrama), Episode 1
These scenes make hacking look like a breeze. I mean… where are they even typing their commands into? Unless my peers and I have very boring computers, I can safely say that most Command Prompts/Bashes (the place where you run commands) do not look like the fancy ones with scrolling green text in dramas. They look like this! Pretty cool, right?
In dramas, be it a tense hacking scene or a regular office scene, there is always the “Hurry up!” line thrown at computer scientists. Leverage (Kdrama), Episode 1
Coding consists of three parts: writing the commands, compiling, and actually running the code.
If a person is writing a command, telling them to hurry up is like telling an author to hurry up and finish writing their book. People’s brains and hands can only move so fast.
Compiling and running are both done by computers. A character can’t control the speed of a computer, and telling them to hurry up is like a chemist telling a chemical reaction to speed up.
So every time someone rushes the character in a major hacking scene, they’re useless. Despite this, I will admit that it does add a lot of comic relief to a very tense scene.
Just take note of this, we are humans too. In real life, if someone were to rush us, we’d probably code even slower just to mess with them.
Sometimes, a character in a drama is a computer science major. In most college dramas, a character’s major doesn’t really have anything to do with the plot. However, small bits of the major still play a role in the dramas.
I’m going, to be honest here. Computer Science is not for everyone. It’s sometimes painfully annoying to read other people’s codes, and when it comes to writing your own commands, you have to be extremely meticulous. One mistake will cause your whole code to fail. That being said, being a computer scientist just takes a lot of passion, a small amount of studying, and a large amount of googling things you don’t get.
This means that we have a lot of free time. Many students will choose to spend this time on personal projects, internships, and jobs, however, there will always be procrastinators. Since we all watch dramas, I’m going to assume that we’re all procrastinators here. Being a procrastinator, I find the characters that spend their whole day not doing anything useful super relatable.
Moral of the story, a computer scientist on their computer is most likely not coding (unless they’re a good student).
NOTE: This only applies to when we don’t have any important projects that are due for class. When that happens, all-nighters galore!
Love O2O (Cdrama), Episode 1
In many dramas, the image of a lonely computer scientist doing whatever he does is often portrayed (I use “he” because I’ve never seen a major female computer scientist in a drama). However, most computer scientists actually work in large teams.
Codes are very complicated commands that can be broken into bits and easily linked afterward. This makes life easier for everyone working on a code and also makes debugging easier. Whenever I see a lonely hacker in a drama, I feel like applauding them and giving them a cookie - cookies are always appreciated
(cookies... get it? Haha). My Holo Love (Kdrama), Episode 6
It blows my mind how the computer scientists in dramas haven’t died of stress and overwork yet.
Lookout/The Guardians (Kdrama), Episode 6
Save My File!
There’s a cliche moment that I’ve seen in many dramas. It’s when the female lead is filling out an important form online, and suddenly the website crashes, and she loses everything she’s been filling out. The male lead swoops in like a knight in shining armour and somehow gets her files back with many keystrokes.
Playful Kiss (Kdrama), Episode 5
Unless I’m just an ignorant fool who needs to study more, I am, I only know of two ways to reopen a tab that you’ve closed. You either go to your browser history (Ctrl/Cmd + h), or you do Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+t. Both of these options are simple and don’t require intense concentration, as shown in dramas. If the website you were on doesn’t autosave applications, I don’t know of any way that can bring back everything that you’ve filled out. So I have no idea what these male leads are doing.
The Reality of Hacking
There is a general misconception that circulates around computer science. Learning computer science does not mean that someone can hack. Most computer scientists can only build programs/software, debug, solve simple problems, store/sort data, work on AI, etc.. Hacking is a branch of computer science which most people do not learn.
Having a degree in computer science will help no one in terms of hacking. No ethical university would give their students such a powerful (and potentially dangerous) tool. So, the next time you talk to your computer scientist friend, remember that most of us don’t actually do this: Game Maya (Lakorn), Episode 15
I know that dramas do not focus on their computer science aspects. Computer Science is just used as a plot device to create dramatic moments and allow characters to gather more information. Watching scenes where computer science is involved is always interesting because they portray it as such an interesting subject. But don’t be fooled, computer science isn’t just about fancy gadgets, shady businesses, and hacking!
It’s more about listing out simple commands that your computer can run.
Goblin (Kdrama), Episode 3