Security in the Movies: Separating Fact from Fiction

by Sarah Kubrick on Oct 26, 2016 11:00:00 AM



Buildings that can transform into impenetrable locked down facilities, rooms that can destroy intruders, and hackers that can create a cyber attack against an alien computer system. Does any of it sound bogus? Well, some of it is and some isn't, but Hollywood certainly has a way of misinforming moviegoers with dazzling effects. 

With entertainment on the forefront of their minds, filmmakers often take creative license with reality, sometimes leaving the audience wandering out of the movie theatre going, "Could that actually happen in real life?" Below we discuss a few examples of on-screen security systems, some of which are real, some are up-and-coming, most are fiction, and some are just plain cool. 

Mission Impossible: Heat, noise, and intrusion detection are all easily accessible features in the world of security today, if not even more advanced. In the scene where Ethan Hunt drops into a seemingly secure room in the CIA headquarters and manages to hack into a computer makes this scene technically realistic in a somewhat sensationalized way. A warm body dropping from the ceiling would be easily detectable by today's standards, with infrared cameras catching on instantly. Lasers are obviously available now, as well as floor panels that can detect a change in weight on them (although we seriously question if they are sensitive enough to detect that one drop of sweat, but hey, we'll let it pass). While this scene remains one of the most suspenseful security system hacks we've ever seen, we think the CIA could have probably invested in a CCTV camera, too.

The Purge: Let's be honest, how cool was that security system? Yes, some aspects of it are pretty fake, but not all of it. One-touch commands that activate entire secuity systems and mass notifications are starting to take off, and video monitoring is commonplace. But if anyone would have invented steel doors that drop with the swipe of a finger, effectively fortifying the structure they were intended to protect, and then made it widely available and affordable to the general public, we think the people living in tornado or hurricane alley would have mastered this long before Hollywood. 

Independence Day: Mankind is being obliterated, no one is safe, and the aliens (somehow fully prepared and aware that we would try to drop a nuke on them) are surrounded by a forcefield that literally nothing can destroy. Only problem for the aliens is they didn't take into account how much experience we have on planet Earth with cybercriminals and how to circumvent their attacks. There are plenty of ways to prepare for cyber attacks in today's world, with more businesses focusing on this level of security more than any other. But hacking into an alien computer system and downloading a virus that targets and disables the defenses of a UFO from another galaxy is not only impossible, it's highly unlikely that we will ever need to know how this is done (we hope).

Resident Evil: Lasers are fairly common when it comes to intrusion detection in the security systems of today. But in one scene from this film, the lasers have the ability to corner the occupants of a room, leaving them nowhere to hide as the lasers destroy them (that takes intrusion detection a step too far, in our humble opinion). Can a laser cut through objects? Well, yes, and they are safely used in several industries for this purpose. But in the security industry, this is generally a very, very bad idea and one we hope never comes to fruition.

Panic Room: Finally! A security system that is completely realistic in just about every way! From video surveillance, a separate ventilation system, a panel that alerts emergency services of a break-in, a separate phone line to call for help (as well as a flashlight and drain if you're handy with Morse code!), a public address system, and an entirely fortified room, this movie has its security knowledge on point. Not only is this form of security realistic, but actually in use today in many homes and businesses.

While some of the systems above are a work in progress, and some have already been outpaced by today's technology, one thing is clear: security systems are quickly adapting and upgrading to levels that were previously thought to be science fiction. With the advancements made in the last five years alone, imagine how much more advanced we will be in five more years.

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This post was written by Sarah Kubrick

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