Hacking, in most films and TV shows, gets depicted as magic, where digital wizards who have exchanged hoodies for robes perform keystroke incantations to open the mystically sealed caves of the internet. In the real world, digital trespassers simply take advantage of human mistakes.
The video above from The Media Show uses puppets who are trying to keep one troublemaker out of a party. To do so, the party hosts have a password for real guests. The troublemaker keeps getting the password, though, as a way of illustrating how hackers get hold of people’s digital keys.
Each hack comes down to some not especially technical trick, such as getting into your target’s head or simply trying hundreds of passwords. I particularly like the “cat-in-the-middle” attack, where an unobtrusive kitten puppet listens in as one person says the password aloud and then whispers it to the trickster.
The Media Show has been posting for four years, but it really upped its frequency over the last year. It was created by Gillian Andrews, who did her doctoral dissertation on “in layman’s terms, ‘stupid on the Internet,'” as she refers to it in her bio. To minimize stupidity, we have some advice on picking memorable passwords that would be tough to hack.
The very fact that the show uses puppets to grapple with topics like this makes the episodes more fun. Puppets are great, but the overall aesthetic is really busy. The puppets blend into some of the backgrounds, with patterns atop patterns. Otherwise, though, it’s a concise and punchy lesson on the sad fact underlying nearly every hack: cybercriminals don’t need incomprehensible skills to break into networks so long as internet users keep making the same errors.