Hacked by a Pirate

"You should try uploading a virus to the mainframe. I find viruses that feature a laughing skull work the best."
Dexter Grif, Red vs. Blue

In case the alien might have trouble appreciating the symbolism of a human bone structure, they also packed a nuclear warhead.

Whenever a character, be it the Asian and Nerdy hero or the computer genius villain, decides to hack into the opponent's computer and mess up with his plans, he'll never stop at just making the computer malfunction. You've got to do it with style.

And so, a Skull and Crossbones image shall take the entire screen of the hacked computer, possibly followed by the voice of the hacker laughing in the background. Alternatively, an 8Bit image of the character doing the hacking, or his logo, or perhaps a mix of the above, shall appear on the screen, such as a Skull and Crossbones, only the skull is wearing the very same hat the hacker wears. Reactions vary from confusion to aneurysms.

Named after the fact that Skull and Crossbones happen to be the Pirate's symbol of choice. Note that the trope is rarely, if ever, performed by an actual pirate, since they usually try not to be noticed.


Anime and Manga
  • The lead character of Bloody Monday Fujimaru, known as 'Falcon', always leaves his personal symbol of a diving falcon at the screen of every computer he visits as a calling card.
  • Radical Edward from Cowboy Bebop tends to do this. Although Ed's more into smiley faces and other sillyness.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pegasus does this by showing his favorite cartoon rabbit character when he counter-hacks Kaiba trying to hack into his system.
  • In Heroman, Professor Denton does this using the alien symbol that appears on his equipment, to temporarily prevent the U.S. government from tracking them via satellites.

Comic Books
  • In V for Vendetta, V has actually been manipulating the Fate computer for years. The "pirate flag" is just the final stroke to drive the Leader completely over the edge.
  • Jensen from The Losers often has to break into systems on a timetable, but if he's on his own schedule, he likes to work wearing a pirate hat. And only a pirate hat.

Fan Fic

  • Independence Day, of course. Also a Crowning Moment of Funny and Pre-Asskicking One-Liner. One must wonder how the alien civilization viewed the chuckling skull-and-crossbones - would it be too culturally specific to understand, or would it be something universal in ominous meaning?
    • Since the skull is obviously human, it would probably be more shocking. Humans posed about zero threat to them up to that point.
  • The famous "Ah, ah, ah. You didn't say the magic word." in Jurassic Park was a justified example, as it was a hacker's defense against someone else trying to hack his computer... and a really crappy hacking attempt.
  • Happens like that in Tanguy when the title character's father sends a virus to his PC. The words "I Love You" (name of a notorious virus back then) flash on the computer screen along with a skull.
  • The brief glimmer of hope that was the hacking scene in Battle Royale featured a chibi-style basketball player dominating the monitors at BR headquarters.
  • All over the place in Hackers. The viruses launched by the hackers all have some malicious and/or cute animation that's displayed while they're mucking about in the system.
  • Eraser: Inversion: Derreguin has several scientists shut down the computers when it was becoming obvious that Arnie and Cullen were using her former boss's computer console to access the disc copy she had (long story short, she copied a second disc in case it turned out the FBI were going to sell her out), to prevent them from hacking the secrets they had. Upon the computer being hacked, a message then pops up that states "You Have Just Been Erased!"
  • Gutterballs: A skull and crossbones shows up on the scoreboard after every one of BBK's kills.
  • Skyfall: Silva does this with a stylized skull and "God save the Queen" playing in the message.
  • In The Italian Job (2003), once Seth Green's character hacks the LA traffic control network and reroutes the truck they need, he displays a huge message word-by-word on all the large screens (apparently, he knows exactly how many there are and how to access them): "You will never stop the real Napster" (he constantly claims to have been the one to invent Napster).

Newspaper Comics
  • Oliver Wendell Jones in Bloom County once caused global chaos — cities in flames — by posting on a stock market computer the message "Avast, ye scurvy corporate swabs! Bank of America is about to go belly up!"

Video Games

Web Animation
  • Invoked in Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction. As Simmons tries to hack Command's computer system, Grif unhelpfully offers advice such as, "You should try uploading a virus to the mainframe. I find viruses that feature a laughing skull work the best."

Web Comics
  • Unwinder of Tall Comics discusses his idea for hacker identity with Amy, who actually is a hacker:
    Unwinder: I'd call myself "Maestro". My thing would be that when I hacked a website, it would play classical music. I'd refer to the songs as "1337motifs".
    Amy: You wouldn't last five minutes.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • An episode of Archer had the ISIS computer system infected by a virus that displayed a dancing pirate sprite pirate complete with parrot which sang "Hunch, hunch! What, what!".
  • In Young Justice season 1, Robin's hacking skills is always represented by a chibi Robin on-screen either frowning (in the process of hacking) or grinning (hack complete).

Real Life
  • This very wiki was once hacked and replaced by this sort of showman. (Memory of this event has been somewhat superseded by The Great Crash roughly a month later.)
  • Such practices of depicting hackers using fancy graphics/logos to identify themselves most likely originated with software pirate groups way back in the 80's - who typically did have some form of ASCII based logo that they would insert into the game they cracked and released. Even today, it's common to find such logos/art in the .nfo file that often accompanies such pirated software. With Hollywood being Hollywood, it's no surprise that they have no concept of the difference between a computer cracker and a software pirate.
  • Early viruses were usually just made by savvy kids pulling pranks. They'd often have the virus interact with the user for fun. Nowadays, viruses are a way to steal money, and their creators don't want them to be noticed. See here.
  • YouTube has a few videos with virus pranks. One of them involves a skull animation.
  • Anonymous usually plasters their logo on websites they deface.