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Impress Your Friends While Watching "Untraceable"

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the did-she-really-say-short-ttl dept.

Movies 228

Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes in today with a nerd-oriented review of "Untraceable," which opened in theaters last Friday. Read on for Bennett's take on what the movie gets right — a surprising amount as these movies usually go — but be warned, his review contains spoilers.

I went into the theater planning to come out with notes for an article like "Everything that 'Untraceable' gets wrong" (feeling pessimistic after "Swordfish" and "Firewall"), but it actually doesn't do that bad. Oh, it gets stuff wrong -- I don't think the FBI can "blackhole" an IP address by clicking a button -- but the errors are for dramatic license, not technical howlers, and the plot holes fall more in the category of things that could have been accomplished more easily some other way. In fact the dialog goes out of its way in several spots to make sure we know they know what they're talking about; screenwriters can't win with these movies, because they'll get grief for getting too much stuff wrong, but if they explain things correctly, it breaks the reality when we can feel the writers telegraphing their knowledge to the geeks in the audience. But it is mostly accurate, and the movie throws you just enough softballs for you to impress your movie-mates as well as the patrons two rows in front and back of you.

The movie takes its first stab at geek realism right at the top, when Diane Lane tells Colin Hanks that his Internet date is never going to see him again because she's more attractive in person than he is. (So far, the only thing wrong with this is that Colin Hanks has exactly the kind of adorable-nerd face that appeals to girls who like to think they don't care about looks.) Then Diane Lane explains how she's ensnaring the cyber-criminal on her screen, in a set piece that has nothing to do with the rest of the plot, like the pre-title action sequence in a Bond movie. First, in a horde of pop-ups covers her monitor, and a site tries to entice her into downloading and running a program that contains a trojan horse. She runs the trojan horse on a virtual machine, where she watches it steal a file full of passwords and financial records, but she inserts her own trojan into the data that's uploaded back to the criminal's computer. In a few moments they find the user's IP address and realize that it must be a neighbor stealing that person's wireless service.

Batter up! I think that an FBI cyber crime expert would have a pop-up blocker installed, but moving on. If a criminal wanted to gain access to your machine to steal your financial records, tricking you into downloading and installing a trojan horse as part of another program, is probably exactly how they'd do it. (However, a trojan wouldn't automatically and instantly find a file full of passwords, even if she did named it "passwords.txt" as bait.) The biggest slip is that if you upload a trojan horse back to someone who was downloading data from your machine, there's still no way to force the remote criminal's computer to run it, as happens in the movie. And a criminal that smart would probably be running the operation from the compromised PC of someone in another city, not stealing a neighbor's wireless access. (In any case, while having the criminal's IP address would allow you to go to someone's ISP and ask them to turn over the records of where that person lived, the characters should not have been able to narrow an IP address down to a person's house without that extra step.) Also, if I heard right, the FBI figures out who the guilty neighbor is even though he has no priors, based on the fact that he has two registered handguns. That will offend a certain portion of the audience, so viewers of "27 Dresses" in some cinemas may hear angry gunfire coming from the next theater.

However, most of these errors were probably necessary to show what the main character does in as short a time as possible and to end the set piece with the villain actually getting caught, so this is probably the best the movie could have done. Don't point that out to your date, of course, since she'll be more impressed by knowledgeable sneering, especially if everyone in the seats around you can hear what a smart guy she's with.

Then the main villain's site is introduced, and the movie has to handle the question of how a site with its own top-level domain like KillWithMe.com would be able to remain online despite showing real-time streaming video of a murder victim being killed. (The hook in the movie is that the more people visit the site, the faster some automated murder contraption kills the victim.) Diane Lane explains how, in a virtuoso sentence designed to silence the nerds who would otherwise say afterwards that there's no way that could ever happen. You'll know the line; it's the one right before her boss says, "I didn't understand anything you said; something about 'Russia'?" Apparently the domain is registered in Russia, and the DNS servers use a low TTL (yes, Diane Lane actually says "low TTL" -- sexy!) to switch the hostname between thousands of different IP addresses, each belonging to some compromised machine.

If you had to come up with a way to do this in a film, and if you assumed that Russian authorities could not be persuaded to go after the domain registrar (something nobody tries in the movie), this would probably be the simplest way that was semi-plausible. You need the site to resolve to thousands of possible IP addresses so that it can't be made to disappear by simply taking one machine offline. The way the movie demonstrates this, though, is for Diane Lane to make one of the site's many IP addresses go dark by clicking a button on her screen and causing it to be blackholed, before the hostname switches to the next IP. The only people who can actually do this in real life are backbone operators with an axe to grind, not the FBI (something the movie actually acknowledges with a passing reference to Net Neutrality legislation!). Ah, but here's where you can knock one out of the park: If you assume, as the movie does, that the FBI has the ability to blackhole individual IP addresses, then they could shut the site down not by blocking the site's IP addresses but by blocking the primary and secondary DNS servers for the killwithme.com domain in Russia, so that if people's computers couldn't communicate with the DNS servers, they'd have no way of resolving the hostname.

By now, the surrounding theatergoers should be threatening to jam your USB thumb drive keychain into your nostril, but you're not done yet. At one point a character targets an IP address beginning with "10.*", and everybody knows those are reserved for intranets, not the public Internet, so you can point out that that's like the 555 prefix for a movie phone number. Later, the heroine finds that a Trojan horse installed on her daughter's machine, has access to all files on all PCs in the house. That could work if (a) the other PCs were set to share out files to other PCs on the same local network, or (b) if the traffic between the other PCs and the wireless router were unencrypted, although it's unlikely the main character would make either of these mistakes.

But you don't want fellow viewers getting the idea you're too Net-savvy; one suspect is later described: "He blogged, he built web sites, he practically lived online," which sets the bar a little low for qualifying as a sociopathic online loner.

With regard to the non-Internet technical details, I have no idea if OnStar can actually help you get through a traffic jam the way they do in this movie, but I'm sure they paid a lot of money to have it appear that they could (although maybe they got a discount since the movie later shows the villain hacking into Diane Lane's car's system, during which the brand name "OnStar" is definitely not mentioned). Speaking of product placement, several in the audience snickered when the movie twice showed the heroine conspicuously logging into the Windows Live interface. But Microsoft may have gotten an even better deal: while the villain's operating system of choice is never mentioned, during closeups of his screen at the end, you can clearly see the word "GNU".

Or maybe it just fits with his overachieving character. After he ties his victims to a bedframe, he likes to elevate it into the path of the camera using a remote-controlled motorized winch evocative of a medieval torture device. Unless I'm mistaken, though, that happens before the site is actually streaming, which means he could have just as easily walked over and lifted up the bedframe. With that kind of fetish for doing simple things the horrendously hard way for no reason, why didn't he just go ahead and wear a "Got Linux?" t-shirt?

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Another way to impress your friends (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202022)

Save your money and DON'T WATCH Untraceable. For bonus points joke that they "should've called it Unwatchable."

Oh no, they're in my wireless network, I've got to go.

Re:Another way to impress your friends (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202434)

After reading this review, why would I need to?

Re:Another way to impress your friends (2, Funny)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202804)

Dude, it's DIANE LANE! A hottie! I admit I didn't watch her in that "Dog" thing, but there are limits, But a cybercrime thriller with DIANE LANE?!

Did you see her in "Unfaithful"?

Re:Another way to impress your friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202832)

Oh!

1. Come up with a movie with a title prefixed with Un
2. Star Diane Lane
3. Profit!

Re:Another way to impress your friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22203038)

True nerds don't have any friends, YOU INSENSITIVE CLOD!!!

Re:Another way to impress your friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22203148)

My bad. I should've said your fellow clan members, or IRC peers.

He's one of them (5, Funny)

Thatmushroom (447396) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202116)

"If you take sexual advantage of her, you're going to burn in a very special level of Hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater."

'nuff said.

Re:He's one of them (1)

absoluteflatness (913952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202384)

no gorram way...

Re:He's one of them (3, Insightful)

Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203098)

Shiny

AHH (1)

Canosoup (1153521) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202118)

"Oh no! He hacked my car!"..... What!?

Re:AHH (2, Funny)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203252)

"Oh no! He hacked my car!"..... What!?
...So drive a 1967 Impala or something like that. "Hack THIS!" 8-)

Millennium (5, Interesting)

BenjiTheGreat98 (707903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202146)

Did anybody else see this movie the first time it was released when it was an episode of The Millennium several years back? The plot line is exactly the same. Another forum even posted that some of the lines in the movie match up with the episode.

Re:Millennium (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202200)

you know what else matches up? Nigger cock and CmdrTaco's puckered asshole.

Re:Millennium (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202464)

Not quite. By now his asshole is so fucking wide that it takes 10 nigger cocks to match up with it.

Re:Millennium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202220)

I was wondering when the Millennium comparison was going to come up. When I saw the commercials for Untraceable that was the first thing I thought of, then I thought I would never see this movie.

Re:Millennium (3, Informative)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202656)

Did anybody else see this movie the first time it was released when it was an episode of The Millennium several years back? The plot line is exactly the same. Another forum even posted that some of the lines in the movie match up with the episode.

Yeah, I got the same feeling too. The episode you're thinking of was called "The Mikado" - Series 2, Episode 13. I never watched too many episodes of Millennium but I did catch this on tv years ago and found it thoroughly entertaining. Definitely very, very, VERY similar to the premise of Untraceable.

whoah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22203012)

for someone who didn't watch many episodes, you sure were quick to point out the exact episode.

Re:whoah (1)

Drinking Bleach (975757) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203368)

for someone who reads slashdot, it's amazing you never heard of Wikipedia or Google

I think you mean... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202186)

With that kind of fetish for doing simple things the horrendously hard way for no reason, why didn't he just go ahead and wear a "Got Gentoo?" t-shirt?
there fixed that for you. Then again he'd spend the entire movie + his whole prison sentence trying to get it installed.

What tech movies are actually good? (1)

jinxidoru (743428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203236)

Speaking of movies that just plain get it wrong, what movies are there that get it right, or right enough? The only two tech movies, that I can think of at the moment, that haven't made me grown have been Sneakers and Anti-Trust. I'll also admit that Hackers holds a special place in my heart. It's amazing that you can possibly get a movie that wrong. It was the most spectacular pile of crap that mankind has ever created. But I digress. Any other recommendations for actually good tech movies?

Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (4, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202188)

It is really sad when Matrix Reloaded got hacking more accurate than a movie about hacking!

these writers should log into IRC sometime and chat with people that know how this stuff works. I could have rewritten portions of this movie to be more plausible as well as more compelling.

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202248)

Right, but frankly the movie would be boring as shit. Movie makers aren't avoiding accuracy in this area because they're ignorant or wanting to spread mistruths -- they're doing it because they know the real thing is pretty boring and drawn-out.

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (5, Funny)

El Yanqui (1111145) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202480)

Boring and drawn-out? You should read my screenplay based on Slashdot: Full of insightful commentary, everybody RTFA and lots of hot chicks running Linux on their desktop.

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (5, Funny)

stuff and such (980278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202642)

So... fiction then?

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (1)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202818)

Fantasy on a par with "The Wizard of Oz".

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (2, Funny)

jejones (115979) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203040)

Be sure to put the hot grits scene in the trailer!

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203064)

Dump the insightful commentary, RTFA'ing, Linux and all mention of Slashdot and you've got a deal.

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202256)

Actually the concept of using a botnet and fast flux-DNS is not that bad. I think the review is pretty good and the movie isn't that bad. Most of the mystery is actually solved with old school detective work on the 'high tech' data anyway.

Besides, Diane Lane is a fine POA and the thought that any chick that fine would actually work in computer security give all nerds something to dream about.

GAL

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202484)

Seriously. Just go watch Rambo instead.

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203050)

Rambo
A local radio station, which is into sports and other such jock stuff gave it a 0 out of 5.

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (1)

Mononoke (88668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202494)

Perhaps it's not a great idea to make a movie like this into a documentary lesson on exactly how to screw up the Internet.

Yes, the process of making an atomic bomb is public knowledge by this point, but I still don't really want to see it drawn out for easy imitation and distributed to the general public.

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (4, Funny)

woot account (886113) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202624)

Making an atomic bomb is easy!
Step one: find an atom
Step two: split it!

Re:Untraceable? Try Unwatchable! (1)

SleepyJoe (195868) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202762)

Step?? Profit!

Remote Execution: google more (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202204)

"The biggest slip is that if you upload a trojan horse back to someone who was downloading data from your machine, there's still no way to force the remote criminal's computer to run it, as happens in the movie."

This is actually how many worms have spread in the past, actually. If you can get files onto a windows box, you can probably execute them remotely (easy mode: you have acquired logon credentials or the box accepts null sessions).

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897553.aspx [microsoft.com]

Re:Remote Execution: google more (4, Informative)

n0-0p (325773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202498)

Uh, no. First off, null sessions have never granted the rights necessary to execute a remote shell (unless paired with an exploit). You need admin rights to kick off an exe via the SCM or scheduler. If you have that access already, copying a file is a foregone conclusion because you can just open a share.

Of course, all of that assumes you have Netbios connectivity... over the Internet. That may have been plausible 5 years ago (probably more more), but someone in between will be blocking it these days. On top of that, current Windows XP and better have a lot more restrictions on Netbios traffic, in particular disabling the default null sessions.

One final point: This scenario is actually quite reasonable if you assume they're exploiting an application on the attacker's system. There's likely to be exploits against the trojan itself if the binary is available for analysis, or if you can identify exploitable bugs in code shared between the client and server components. There's also the possibility of attacking any services he exposes, or perhaps file parser attacks against whatever he uses to read the content he nabbed. The details of such a counterattack are more complex, but well within the realm of reason.

Re:Remote Execution: google more (1)

irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202970)

I wouldn't even go that far. Just assume theres another exploit similar to the WMF picture exploit [ciac.org] .

Want to trojan them? Throw something in the data that will buffer overflow something parsing the data and execute code for you. You might not even need them to open it when you consider things like Desktop Search and similar features willingly parsing all the data on your harddrive with potentially vulnerable(or backdoored..) parsers.

On behalf of everybody everywhere... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202212)

...please do not actually try to tell people this stuff. I'm geeky enough to be able to spot all this already without any help, but if somebody tried to explain it to me when I was trying to watch a film, I'd consider them a loser with zero social skills and never watch a film with them again. This kind of thing isn't entertaining or interesting, even to people who live and breath computers.

Re:On behalf of everybody everywhere... (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203054)

my thought exactly, nothing bothers me more than hear people brag about their technical exploits all the while I'm left to guess the only thing they really know about computers is how to poke around in Windows Control Panel and install RAM. Its my belief the smarter you are, the more you realize you know nothing. Kind of humbling really.

article title missing a set of quotation marks... (5, Funny)

majorgoodvibes (1228026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202230)

...around "impress"

Re:article title missing a set of quotation marks. (5, Funny)

El Yanqui (1111145) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202488)

...and "friends".

Re:article title missing a set of quotation marks. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202816)

Don't worry, the summary is for the wrong audience (not slashdot). Note: "Don't point that out to your date, of course, since she'll..."

Re:article title missing a set of quotation marks. (0, Redundant)

Nodamnnicknamesavial (1095665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202628)

or around "friends" ... at least they stayed away from "Impress your date".

Huh. (2, Funny)

esrobinson (1028500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202232)

So, people telling me to shut up in movie theaters are just doing that because they're impressed?

I'll keep that in mind.

Re:Huh. (2, Insightful)

Spodie! (675056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202442)

Exactly.
From the article: "But it is mostly accurate, and the movie throws you just enough softballs for you to impress your movie-mates as well as the patrons two rows in front and back of you."
How about you STFU when watching a film in a movie theatre? No one cares what you're thinking or how smart you are.
The movie theater is not your living room.

Impossible (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202236)

I would be laughing my ass off if the bad guy ran something on the hurd kernel.

404 - word not found (1, Informative)

Alfius (886617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202262)

"Speaking of product placement, several in the audience snickered when the movie twice showed the heroine conspicuously logging into the Windows Live interface" Sorry, they did what now?

Re:404 - word not found (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202846)

Snickered?

Definitions of snicker on the Web:
* a disrespectful laugh

Re:404 - word not found (1)

Alfius (886617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202896)

um, sniggered surely?

Re:404 - word not found (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22203124)

Have a look on m-w's website. The entry for snigger will link you to the entry for snicker.

I won't watch this you insensitive clod! (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202288)

I think the only thing worse as far as "hacking" or tech movies would be the one released recently whose plot revolved around getting killed by a text message or something equally ridiculous. The sad thing is that it will probably rake in millions because the general public doesn't care about plot, just how pretty the explosions are and that everything is dumbed down [mutilated] so that they can understand.

Re:I won't watch this you insensitive clod! (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202392)

I think the only thing worse as far as "hacking" or tech movies would be the one released recently whose plot revolved around getting killed by a text message or something equally ridiculous.

That was a horror movie, ala The Ring. It was meant to add the supernatural to the commonplace to be scary.

Re:I won't watch this you insensitive clod! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202522)

That was a horror movie, ala The Ring. It was meant to add the supernatural to the commonplace to be scary.
right, it was still horrifically aweful. getting killed by a cell-phone isn't so much "scary" as it is "lame". [here lies ---- ----- killed by a pack of wolverines with chainsaws]... [here lies Forgetable Character, killed by a text message.]

Re:I won't watch this you insensitive clod! (1)

yabos (719499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202886)

There was the Ring which was a VHS tape you watch and then the dead girl kills you magically. Then there's another one basically the same where you get a voice mail message but your phone doesn't ring or it rings with a different ringtone or something. Then you die from that magically. Fucking stupid and it's basically the same movie with a few details changed.

Re:I won't watch this you insensitive clod! (1)

insertwackynamehere (891357) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202454)

You obviously haven't been on Myspace recently. Getting killed by reading messages is actually quite common but luckily the antidote is simple: get your friends to read the deadly messages. By golly no dead clown children with axes whose boyfriends dumped them will kill me at midnite!

Re:I won't watch this you insensitive clod! (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202836)

I think the only thing worse as far as "hacking" or tech movies would be the one released recently whose plot revolved around getting killed by a text message or something equally ridiculous.

Not sure which one you mean there, but it gave me the idea of sending the killer video from Ring on my mobile and then Bluetoothing it to people at random. Even more fun than 2girls1cup!

Honestly... (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202290)

why can't we go back to the days when film-makers would have an enormous penchant for factual accuracy? The amount of science and computing howlers in modern films (and TV shows) irritates me beyond belief.

Doesn't sound quite as bad as Independence Day, though. I mean, a PowerBook from 1997 connecting to the Internet on the move? Deep Impact - a progress meter saying "TRANSFERRING TO FLOPPY DISK"? Retrieving E-mail with the command "open mail server" in the terminal, only to be confronted with such a terse error message as "server down"?

It may not be particularly noticeable to the average viewer, but to me it's intensely off-putting.

Re:Honestly... (2, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202372)

No shit. I'd hate to have to write a huge essay apologizing for all the stuff that Kubrick screwed up in '2001'. Oh, wait, I couldn't do that if I wanted to, because people demanded more from their filmmakers back in the day.

Re:Honestly... (1)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203364)

I'd hate to have to write a huge essay apologizing for all the stuff that Kubrick screwed up in '2001'. Oh, wait, I couldn't do that if I wanted to, because people demanded more from their filmmakers back in the day.

Have you ever watched 2001? As I recall, it's 15 minutes of a plastic ship landing on the moon, 15 minutes of a sphere slowly wandering around a ship, 15 minutes of falling down a flashy tunnel, and 15 minutes of intermission, broken up by chunks of dialog in a style that thankfully currently only continues to exist in soap operas.

The science fiction element was great, the book was fantastic, but the movie is unwatchable without a cost-prohibitive amount of drugs. If it's a trade-off between watchability and technical accuracy, I hope Hollywood continues to err on the side of entertainment. Although, in a lot of cases, they could do both, and that would be ideal.

Re:Honestly... (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202412)

I mean, a PowerBook from 1997 connecting to the Internet on the move?
*that* was what bothered you about independence day? It didn't bother you that the guy uploaded a virus on to the Alien mothership's computer which somehow managed to take the shields out? these aliens travel trillions of miles across the galaxy destroying everything in their path and get taken out by a virus that a guy on some backwater planet called Earth whipped up in less than an hour? WTF? Deep impact wasn't as bad as Armageddon, I mean you can't beat the idea that an asteroid "the size of Texas" can be neatly split down the middle by a tactical nuke [the nuke wasn't that big] the only asteroids around that big are sitting comfortably in the asteroid belt and if they ever decided to venture toward Earth there isn't anything we could do about it. You might as well commit Seppuku because something that big isn't going to even notice our entire nuclear arsenal. It'll jsut keep on coming, slamming into the Earth and peeling the Earth like an orange killing *everything* even those pesky bacteria.

Re:Honestly... (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202594)

Actually, the biggest problem with Independence Day was the idea that those large ships could come into the atmosphere and hover there. I don't care what they were using for propulsion, the pressure they would exert on the surface of the Earth would've crushed EVERYTHING.

Re:Honestly... (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202688)

never mind that, imagine how much air was displaced and heated to great temperature. these ships were supposed to be 15 miles in diameter and entered the atmosphere at over 10,000 mph- that's a lot of now very very hot air that needs to get out of the way in a hurry. the air has momentum and while the ship ""could"" stop, the air most decidedly can not. that alone would kill everything beneath these ships. then there was the fact that the ships "hacked" our satellites for their own use when they could have done it with their own technology much more easily without being discovered or needing to find out how our systems worked to even be able to hack them.

Re:Honestly... (5, Informative)

eganloo (195345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202430)

Doesn't sound quite as bad as Independence Day, though. I mean, a PowerBook from 1997 connecting to the Internet on the move?


Actually, a PowerBook from 1997 could connect to the Internet on the move. Specifically, mine did. Like thousands of others, I was using a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricochet_(internet_service) [wikipedia.org] Ricochet wireless modem from a company called Metricom. Independence Day made a point of attaching a Ricochet modem to the onscreen computer. And yes, Ricochet's coverage area did reach into Washington, D.C.,--apparently, Metricom was hoping that Ricochet's benefits would impress the federal regulators. Unfortunately, Metricom went bankrupt in 2001. Now that the more ubiquitous cellular networks have caught up with better speeds (Ricochet had DSL speeds at the end), it's unlikely that Ricochet will be revived. But, yes, PowerBooks could connect to the Internet in 1997.

Re:Honestly... (3, Funny)

digerata (516939) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203208)

I applaud your support of Independence Day and its technological merits.

However, I think what he meant to say was:

"Thank god Macs are compatible with the mothership!"

Re:Honestly... (1)

eganloo (195345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203258)

However, I think what he meant to say was:

"Thank god Macs are compatible with the mothership!"


Yeah, there's no getting around the silliness in the rest of the plot. However, that's not inherent to Macs -- it should be improbable for any Earth computer of any operating system to be compatible with the mothership, if it weren't for the Earth-computers-are-descended-from-Area-51-voodoo angle that the movie also adds.

That's why it was weird that the grandfather post picked on the one aspect of Independence Day that was plausible and proven in the real world (Ricochet packet radios for wireless Internet connectivitiy), when there were so many honestly incredulous "What-the-" moments in the movie.

Re:Honestly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202456)

IMO the worst part of Independence Day, other than being an unwatchable military propaganda movie even the worst John Wayne war flick pales in comparison to, is the part where they upload the virus into the alien network; I keep imagining how network stacks written at distances measured in multiple of parsecs could miraculously have the same structure and functions. Let alone the ubiquitous "uploading virus" flashing alert.

Re:Honestly... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202514)

Doesn't sound quite as bad as Independence Day, though. I mean, a PowerBook from 1997 connecting to the Internet on the move?

What's wrong with that? IIRC, I had a cellphone with a special port for use to connnect to a serial(?) port in 1997. You could use it as a modem to call an ISP. It wasn't EDGE technology that allowed it to be on the internet, but it was around.

I don't remember when that happened however.

Of more concern was how easy it was to connect the Mac to the alien computers. But I suppose that it is possible a converter was created.

Deep Impact - a progress meter saying "TRANSFERRING TO FLOPPY DISK"?

Well, was it transfering to a floppy? What's wrong here?

The amount of science and computing howlers in modern films (and TV shows) irritates me beyond belief.

If those examples are what annoys you, what is wrong with you? I have no desire to watch someone use a command line interface to read e-mail. I also want the guns to have infinite magazines (except when running out of ammo is an interesting part of the story.) You can talk about the annoyance of bad science, and there are good examples (which slip my mind). But, just like I have no desire to see someone actaully fix a car's engine (yes, car analog, for the win) in a movie as opposed to play with a wrench for 10 seconds, I have no desire to watch someone go through the tedium of configuring a computer, or programming, or using PINE.

why can't we go back to the days when film-makers would have an enormous penchant for factual accuracy? ... It may not be particularly noticeable to the average viewer, but to me it's intensely off-putting.

This combination is called "answering your own question."

Re:Honestly... (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202976)

Doesn't sound quite as bad as Independence Day, though. I mean, a PowerBook from 1997 connecting to the Internet on the move?

What's wrong with that? IIRC, I had a cellphone with a special port for use to connnect to a serial(?) port in 1997. You could use it as a modem to call an ISP. It wasn't EDGE technology that allowed it to be on the internet, but it was around.

Yes, but at the speed he was opening programs and web pages (very megabyte-intensive) I see no way it would work with that speed under a 56k landline modem, let alone a 14.4k cellular system, running through an RS232 on that pure bastion of stability, Mac OS 8.

Deep Impact - a progress meter saying "TRANSFERRING TO FLOPPY DISK"?

Well, was it transfering to a floppy? What's wrong here?

In my experience, progress meters always give the name of the device. IE: "Copying ASTEROID.JPG to A:/IMGS/*.*". It is ridiculously dumbed down.

The amount of science and computing howlers in modern films (and TV shows) irritates me beyond belief.

If those examples are what annoys you, what is wrong with you? I have no desire to watch someone use a command line interface to read e-mail. I also want the guns to have infinite magazines (except when running out of ammo is an interesting part of the story.) You can talk about the annoyance of bad science, and there are good examples (which slip my mind). But, just like I have no desire to see someone actaully fix a car's engine (yes, car analog, for the win) in a movie as opposed to play with a wrench for 10 seconds, I have no desire to watch someone go through the tedium of configuring a computer, or programming, or using PINE.

Perhaps I should explain. In my opinion, these errors remove a lot of the realism, making the film much less believable. I prefer things to be gritty and believable, not fantastic and unlikely.

I could actually see a plotline emerging from the boredom of tracking someone down with a computer. The government technician tries to tracert his way into some server which is sending out a worm for a DDoS attack against the Pentagon, the MOD, etc. However, it's taking too long, and the stupid bureaucrats throw him out and put Steve Ballamer on the job.

Re:Honestly... (1)

eganloo (195345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203358)

Doesn't sound quite as bad as Independence Day, though. I mean, a PowerBook from 1997 connecting to the Internet on the move?

What's wrong with that? IIRC, I had a cellphone with a special port for use to connnect to a serial(?) port in 1997. You could use it as a modem to call an ISP. It wasn't EDGE technology that allowed it to be on the internet, but it was around.


Yes, but at the speed he was opening programs and web pages (very megabyte-intensive) I see no way it would work with that speed under a 56k landline modem, let alone a 14.4k cellular system, running through an RS232 on that pure bastion of stability, Mac OS 8.


I think you're misremembering just how many web pages he opened. Actually, the final interation of Ricochet modems could not only reach the advertised speeds of 128 kbps (PCMCIA versions were available), but well surpass it in low traffic areas. Anyways, you just shifted the goalposts--from claiming a PowerBook couldn't connect to the Internet on the move at all, to saying it was too slow to do so. Neither is true.

Obligitory PA link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202330)

Re:Obligitory PA link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202410)

That's what happened to that internet I didn't get last week

this Fp for GNAA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202352)

Unwatchable Confirmed (1)

briggsb (217215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202374)

Yeah, I agreed [bbspot.com] that there weren't too many technical groaners in the movie, there were more implausible non-technical things that happened in the movie. Like why didn't she secure her car before getting back into it, especially when she suspected someone was in there? Oh well, what do you expect from a January movie.

-1 flamebait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202390)

With that kind of fetish for doing simple things the horrendously hard way for no reason, why didn't he just go ahead and wear a "Got Linux?" t-shirt?

How do we mod an article?

As a public service... (3, Funny)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202402)

... I say the next techno movie plot shows how forwarding insipidly cute emails about kittens doing something pukingly cute causes your head to explode.

Reideen 2007... Debian GNU/Linux and The Borg OS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202414)

There is a Japanese animated series, Reideen 2007, where one of the villain (well, he is on the good side, but uses a quite naughty methodology...) uses clearly Debian Ubuntu GNU/Linux and one of the heroes uses The Borg OS.
The only good thing for us, free hackers, is that this hero admits clearly that this villain has always been quite smarter with computers he has never been. Well, one could see propaganda to tell people: GNU/Linux is for advanced users and The Borg OS the average user, fact which has been wrong for several years...

Couldn't be that hard to find the guy. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202436)

They know he's in Portland. Once they know that, he has to be on either cable or DSL, or mooching off someone else's nearby connection.

The FBI could ask the cable company to reboot, in sequence, the router for each cable segment. When the right cable segment went momentarily offline, the streaming video would stop for a moment. Similarly, each DSLAM could be restarted. That would narrow it down to a hundred houses or so.

Re:Couldn't be that hard to find the guy. (1)

esper (11644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202586)

Of course, if the FBI's going to ask the ISPs to do that in a fashion such that the ISPs would agree to do so, I'd really hope that someone at the ISP would be bright enough to suggest that, instead of interrupting service for a huge number of customers, they could try looking up which of their subscribers is currently authenticated on that IP address, then check their customer records to get the subscriber's name and address. This would have the additional benefit of taking less time and narrowing it down to one house rather than a hundred or so. (The issue of locating which (if any) neighbor was using their wireless would remain, but the "rolling blackout" solution doesn't address this either.)

Anyhow, my impression of the review's point on locating the street address corresponding to the IP address wasn't "it can't be done" but rather "the FBI can't just push a button and get that information without contacting the ISP".

Re:Couldn't be that hard to find the guy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22202596)

With DSL, you register a PPPoE username. With Cable, you register the modems MAC address. The rebooting routine is unnecessary.

Re:Couldn't be that hard to find the guy. (1)

ImTheDarkcyde (759406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202620)

puh-leez, a citywide internet blackout would end up on the front page of every two-bit tech blog, and the FBI can't deal with that kind of bad press!

Talking in a movie? (5, Insightful)

glimmy (796729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202440)

Don't point that out to your date, of course, since she'll be more impressed by knowledgeable sneering, especially if everyone in the seats around you can hear what a smart guy she's with.


I don't know what kind of dates this guy has, but I don't think any date I have had would want me to talk through a movie and nitpick on every little detail.

misplaced sarcasm (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202470)

<sarcasm>

"Don't point that out to your date, of course, since she'll be more impressed by knowledgeable sneering, especially if everyone in the seats around you can hear what a smart guy she's with."

</sarcasm>

i know you are being sarcastic, but a sentence like this pretty much explains the social life with a straight face of a good amount of slashdotters here, so your sarcasm might be wasted here, and actually encourage this sort of behavior

Re:misplaced sarcasm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22203104)

i know you are being sarcastic...

One of Haselton's previous epic-length ramblings mentioned how he was suing a former date to recoup her share of the costs after she didn't sufficiently put out. I'm not entirely sure he's being sarcastic here.

Screen captures from the movie trailer. (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202538)

Here are a few screen shots [imageshack.us] from the high (non-HD) movie trailer [apple.com] . I wonder if those IP addresses are valid. It looks like they use Vista.

Re:Screen captures from the movie trailer. (1)

pikine (771084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202608)

If a number in the IP address has only 1 or 2 digits, we never zero-prefix it to make it three digits. The IP address 192.010.125.120 really hurts my eyes. It actually is a real IP address that belongs to "Symbolics, Inc." The address 127.131.101.180 is the same as 127.0.0.1. All 127.* prefixed IP addresses are reserved for localhost. The third one, 010.191.100.122 is a non-routable intranet IP address. Whether it's valid or not depends on where the computer is.

Re:Screen captures from the movie trailer. (1)

pikine (771084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202658)

All in all, the movie does a good job using non-public IP addresses, like the 555- telephone number that the reviewer made an analogy of. However, 192.168.* are all class C networks, and not all addresses prefixed with 192.* are private. For example, 192.169.* is not private, and it belongs to someone in Hawaii according to its whois information.

password.doc (1)

pikine (771084) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202546)

The biggest slip is that if you upload a trojan horse back to someone who was downloading data from your machine, there's still no way to force the remote criminal's computer to run it, as happens in the movie.

My first reaction was to make the password file a Word document, and write the trojan as VBA macro, but at this time and age I don't know if that's still feasible. The most plausible way would be to craft a malformed Word document that causes buffer overrun when Word reads the file, executing arbitrary code to launch the payload counter-trojan. You could also embed other OLE objects so the document leverages another application's flaw to exploit Word, which gives you more options.

Walker Texas Ranger (1)

Tom9729 (1134127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202558)

I can't remember the name, but from reading that short review, "Untraceable" sounds quite a bit like the episode of Walker Texas Ranger where Walker is going after some psycho with a website, a streaming video feed, hostages, and a shotgun hooked up to a timer.

Re:Walker Texas Ranger (1)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203378)

Walker Texas Ranger sucks

Fiction or Fact (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202640)

- I don't think the FBI can "blackhole" an IP address by clicking a button...

Actually, I used to work for a company that sold products that did just that... sort of. I haven't seen the movie and don't plan to, but for traffic on their own enterprise network our goal was to give users a "big red button" they can hit to blackhole traffic that matches a given signature. This could be an IP, or it could be traffic from a given IP, to another IP on a specific port, or even matches packet content. We had another product for big ISPs that allows them to do the same (but I think it only went as specific as /24's for source address). Both of these products are widely deployed and see regular use. The ISP version even let them create accounts for given customers that allowed them to block traffic heading to their network while not showing any traffic that was heading to other customers' networks. Our products were commercially available. I bet the NSA had something along the same lines. I guess what I'm saying is, maybe that isn't as far-fetched as you think.

A real geek would have asked.... (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202690)

Plot Schmot! Was there any boobies!? Gratuitous nudity of pretty girls?!

Re:A real geek would have asked.... (1, Interesting)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202912)

Don't need the tits - it's DIANE LANE! (Of course, tits would be nice, too. Especially her tits! [celebritypro.com] Although her best features are her long legs. [celebritypro.com] - really excellent legs! [celebritypro.com] )

Schwing! (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203130)

'Nuff said!

The Net (3, Funny)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202744)

Too bad she didn't have Sandra Bullock on her team to type "UPLOAD VIRUS." ;^)

--
Toro

"will offend a certain portion of the audience" (4, Insightful)

Quila (201335) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202844)

Now why point this to the Michigan Militia? That is insulting.

Owning a gun isn't just legal, it was encouraged by those who wrote the Constitution, and protected by it. Owning a handgun should provide zero suspicion of any other action. In fact, owning a registered handgun is a sign of a law-abiding citizen, since a criminal would likely not have his handguns registered.

Either this section is completely bull, or it's a sad but true description of a government that sees legal handgun ownership as a sign of criminal leanings. Unfortunately the latter is more likely.

Re:"will offend a certain portion of the audience" (3, Insightful)

Scutter (18425) | more than 6 years ago | (#22203194)

Owning a gun isn't just legal, it was encouraged by those who wrote the Constitution, and protected by it. Owning a handgun should provide zero suspicion of any other action.

You're not the only person who's noticed that Hollywood vilifies gun ownership while at the same time zealously worshiping it.

Leaving aside the guilt of the person in the movie, this kind of database trolling is exactly why gun registration is a bad thing. Fortunately, my state (and many others) do not require gun registration.

Okay, guys, I'm as nerdy as you are... (1)

Hitto (913085) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202852)

But in movies like that, I like to imagine that ALL advanced technology isn't necessarily accessible to the general public. So what if the FBI can blow up a computer with a ping command. What REALLY annoys me is when they computers beep and boop incessantly.
And blade runner-like image zooming with today's technology. Graaargh.

Simpsons comic (1)

Skuldo (849919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202958)

There is a UK Simpsons comic where the 3 nerds make a space movie, and in the final cut they remove all the sound and have the space ship travelling at a realistic time :p

STOP! Impress/crucify me Holywood .... (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 6 years ago | (#22202988)

This looks like another Hollywood marketeer ploy. Sounds like "Hackers" was better, and AJ always delivered woodies (those lips, that smile, whiplash body, breathless seductions keeping the heart pumping even in a mediocre movie or dead-body. So, if "Untraceable" is lacking in 5|!115, then ... I'll just watch Hackers again at home.

If "Untraceable"is 2007 nerd-oriented ... where are the babes/bitches, booze/beer, caffeine/meth ... more pink, splattering red, and seditious seductive black. (Technology Experience Knowledge) TEK-correct ain't Hollywood without some vintage thrill (real/virtual) rides. Let hard-old-core (USMC) grandma (SWeaver) teach and care for her 31137 cracker twin daughters who return the favor to their Tits-flapping, cunt-clapping, dick-head-bitting, Ass-pounding ... seriously tight and Violent grandma. Then as all the good-(FBI, CIA, delta-farce ...)-guys are about to totally whack the king-prick ... dear sweet lovable "AND" fuckable grandma drops the bad-sob with a 60cal long-shot (quite end, neat and complete). Grandma and the twins our heroes saving US, and "The USA Constitutional," to bare lethal weapons and/or beautiful bodies, all about US, free of dogma-cults, plutocrats, and megalomaniacs.

TEK is important, but Hollywood without TAV (real/virtual) is just torture. GFBA and Hollywood and keep them on the road to happiness.

It's pseudo computer-literate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22203052)

Apparently the domain is registered in Russia, and the DNS servers use a low TTL (yes, Diane Lane actually says "low TTL" -- sexy!) to switch the hostname between thousands of different IP addresses, each belonging to some compromised machine.
That sounds like she knows what she's talking about, but only if she isn't really a computer expert. For any FBI agent working in a cyber-crime division, this would still be traceable.

While the part about the DNS sounds plausible (especially if she's describing a DynDNS solution where the bots re-register the IP as needed, since this would imply the low TTL), that still doesn't make the site untraceable. Given what is at stake and the computer aptitude she supposedly had, it shouldn't be all that difficult to lookup the temporary DNS entry, hack into that machine (which should be easy, considering it was likely hacked to be part of the botnet by the villain), and then monitor the connections it made to find the source of the streaming video. Regardless of how large a botnet you put up to obfuscate the source of the streaming video, that part needs a somewhat static IP address.

The movie sounds like the technical equivalent of having the main characters in "The DaVinci Code" get to the second clue and say, "Well, the first clue said it would be here, but all there is here is another clue...I guess we have to give up." In both cases, you keep following each step of the route from a user's browser to the source of the streaming video. If the streaming video can find its way from the victim to the viewer, it can be traced back to its source. Sure, you can introduce hurdles that need to be cleared (with each one likely introducing latency that makes streaming video less and less practical), but nothing is "untraceable". And no technical hand-waving can change the fact that this movie is predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the internet works.
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