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If things are really going wrong, then grab the wheel and turn it to take control.
"The problems with the security system were high on Jurassic Park's bug list. Nedry wondered if anybody ever imagined that it wasn't a bug—that Nedry had programmed it that way. He had built in a classic trap door.
So what if you don't know the combination to the keypad lock, or the password to the ultrasecure government computer? Every electronic device has an Override function, which will conveniently give full access to any schmuck who knows the command. Most often seen as the explicit command "OVERRIDE" entered via a Viewer-Friendly Interface
when access is denied to someone who really ought not to have it.
Sometimes this is spoofed with "manual override" being a euphemism for pounding on the machine with fists or tools until it finally does what you want
. Klaatu Barada Nikto
is a specific variant.
A real situation similar to this one would be a backdoor, which is a hidden, purposefully created way of entering a computer system created by the programmer(s).
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Nagato and Asakura from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya know the override codes to reality. In the Light Novels the code they use is shown.
- It's SQL. They'd still need database access by other means, which isn't shown, probably for fear that readers would use it.
- As expected of a Ken Akamatsu Manga, Hakase in Mahou Sensei Negima! built Chachamaru with her override function applied by adding moderate pressure to her right breast plate. Take from that what you will.
- Presuming the override only works when she's in diagnostic mode (the one time we've seen it used), this isn't either a security risk or too bad a choice. Easy target if you need that, and nothing there you'd normally be testing. And I've just realized there's no way to avoid double meanings here.
- In Space Pirate Mito, the mailsuits used by the main character and the Big Bad have a glitch that's activated by hitting a sensor on the back. Once activated, the glitch short-circuits the suit, paralyzing the user.
- In Outlaw Star, Melfina the bioandroid/ship navigator has an override command that suspends her personality.
- In the Civil War storyline, when Spider-Man turns against the pro-registration camp, Iron Man uses an Override Command to shut down Spidey's armour (which he designed), calling Spidey out on not realising that he would have won. Subverted when Spider-Man reveals that he did realise that, and installed an override override.
- In The Invisibles, the antagonists know the override command to the human brain.
- Justified in Superman, when Clark never realised the "cells" (actually high-tech Kryptonian shipping crates) in his Fortress even had voice-activated override codes. Which means they were never changed from the factory default, which General Zod knows...
- In the Firefly fanfic Forward, the Alliance has hardwired override commands installed on all their ships in case of subversion. Only Operatives and very high-ranking military commanders and officials know these codes. Unfortunately for them, many of these people were in the same room with a mind-reading psychic at one point....
Films — Animated
- In Madagascar, Private finds the override code for the ship in the first one.
- In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Kyle gets into a restricted website by rerouting the encryptions. And he does this just by pressing a bunch of random buttons on the keyboard.
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint tries to stop the out-of-control FLDSMDFR (a food replicator which has grown into an Eldritch Abomination) by uploading the Kill Code into it. Unfortunately, he ends up with the wrong file and has to resort to other methods...
Films — Live-Action
- Demolition Man:
- Simon Phoenix is in a phone-booth-slash-computer-terminal when the police catch up with him. He sees that one of the cops is standing close to a wall and tries to activate the anti-graffiti system (metal rods that come out of the wall and use high voltage to clear the wall of ink). The computer senses the presence of the cop and refuses to run the system, but he promptly overrides the safety feature with the password "7777777" (seriously), electrocuting the cop. The password does have some other characters in it so it's more like '777.77-7777-7_7777'. (Assuming that those characters aren't part of a shown pattern to aid in typing in the code.)
- Earlier in the movie, the same baddie escapes confinement by voicing the passcode to the cuffs that were restraining him (which was probably part of the programming he received while in cryostasis). It should be noted that the person who programmed him with this information is also pretty much the designer of their society and technology, so he purposely made things easy for Phoenix.
- Lenina Huxley also uses an passwordless override command to access Simon Phonenix's cryostasis programming contents. However, the Viewer-Friendly Interface does hint that she has to state a life-threatening reason before accepting the override command.
- In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Admiral Kirk uses a prefix code (which is unique for each ship) to force the Reliant to lower its shields after it seriously damages the Enterprise in a surprise attack. It works, but only because Khan didn't know that feature existed. They state it wouldn't work if Khan had changed the passcode after stealing the ship.
- And the "Make Ship Asplode" command from Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
- In WarGames (1983), the creator of the military super computer W.O.P.R. implements a back door password: Joshua, the name of his son.
- Justified example: In Jurassic Park, the giant gates have a manual override lever so that they can be opened in the event of a power failure. There is also of course Nedry's software backdoor. This is justified too, since he wrote the software in the first place.
- Played with in a spinoff miniseries of Perry Rhodan. After being stuck millennia in the past of the Empire of Arkon (a time when his original self was still stranded on Earth), the protagonist Atlan is faced with a hostile local ruler who commands a fleet superior to that of the allies he's made. Thankfully, he remembers that the common practice during this historical period was for units of the Imperial fleet to have secret override codes so that suitably highly-ranked officers could simply render troublesome ships useless to their handlers with a single transmission, happens to have discovered the relevant codes for the enemy fleet, and uses them to devastating effect to force his enemies to evacuate their doomed planet with only the small craft he allows them while leaving their fleet behind. The 'played with' part comes in when he later muses that that very incident must have been one of the reasons the practice was discontinued not too long afterwards...
Live Action TV
- Star Trek, of course, has several examples, from voice commands to manual overrides. Not only do they have override commands (in most cases as simple as saying the word "Override"), but they have Auxiliary Control, which appears to be able to take over control from the Bridge without it being given voluntarily!
- The example from Wrath of Khan shows up again in Star Trek: The Next Generation, being used to shut down the shields of a captain who was waging a one-man war on the Cardassiansnote . It was given to the Cardassians to stop him, but even without shields (however briefly) he still won.
- In Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine could control the entire ship on a whim. For example, one episode has her trying to access the Captain's personal logs. When denied, she walks over to a wall panel, flips a couple chips inside, and instantly gains access. In the same episode, she teaches a child to override commands from the bridge.
- Farscape has fun with this in one episode. The protagonists have overridden the security on an elevator, only to have their override overridden. What do they do? Try to override it! Unfortunately, "We couldn't override their override of our override!"
- The Doctor once hacked UNIT's computer systems, so that they would accept "BUFFALO" as the correct response for all their passwords.
- In one episode of Stargate Atlantis Doctor Keller and Ronon are attempting to reclaim the Daedalus from the Wraith. Keller lists all the different systems they need to override and asks Ronon if he knows how to do all that. He proceeds to start shooting at the control crystals randomly.
- In the Battlestar Galactica remake, this is the key to the Cylons' Curbstomp Battle of the entire Colonial Fleet in the opening stages of the war. One of the Sixes seduced Gaius Baltar, posing as a defense contractor, and convinced him to allow her access to the latest hardware being installed in the Fleet, ostensibly to give her an edge in bidding for the next contract. In reality, she inserted a backdoor that would allow the Cylons to remotely shut down any Colonial ships with the hardware installed. Since almost the entire fleet had been refitted with said hardware, the Cylons went through the Colonial Fleet like a chainsaw through tapioca.
- In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Kevin says Dean opening the door from the outside reset the systems and ended the bunker's lockdown.
- In a 1980s Little Orphan Annie storyline, the friendly sentient robot F1do can be shut down with the oral command, "F1do! Down!", and his benevolent personality overriden with the command "F1do! Attack!" However, villain Skip Smith's attempt to use the "F1do! Kill!" override against Annie fails when F1do self-destructs rather than obey the command to kill his friend.
- Final Fantasy VIII has Selphie override several computers — one a "manual override" (in a Button Mashing minigame) and one a legit override in order to prevent a missile launch. (The password is EDEA, the name of the Sorceress dictator who's running the base.)
- Fallout 3 has some sentient terminals and robots that can be affected by your Science skill (or failing that, Robotics Expert perk). One particular instance is the M.A.R.Go.T terminal, which can be overridden thusly.
- Fallout: New Vegas also has this a few times. Also, hacking computers in general is this trope turned into a minigame in both this game and Fallout 3.
- Portal 2's Wheatley performs a manual override on a wall to get Chell on to the old testing track to reclaim the portal device. AKA he smashes the wall down.
- Played with in the core transfer procedure and the Stalemate Resolution Button. It overrides the current core and replaces it with another, as long as both cores agree. If not, a trained Stalemate Resolution Associate must push the aforementioned button.
- System Shock uses the overrides at least twice. Considering that the software is dominated by SHODAN, It's the Only Way.
- In Sonic Battle, Professor Gerald has installed one of these in Emerl the robot, but it must be activated before it goes definitively berserk. They aren't able to issue the command the second time.
- Subverted in the Machinima series Red vs. Blue: when Sarge is called upon to disarm a bomb he created, he says he specifically built it so that he could not - just in case he was brainwashed and fell in the hands of "those dirty Blues".
- But used later on by Agents York and Washington, at different times, on the AI Delta, who can apparently be ordered to do just about anything by someone with the proper authority. Which makes sense: other storyline arcs clearly show what can happen when one of these AIs isn't kept under control.
- In the "GOFOTRON" arc of Sluggy Freelance, it becomes a sort of running gag that Riff overrides automated systems by tearing wires out with the phrase, "Everything has a manual override." This tends to have some unexpected consequences, from disabling the ship to indirectly causing the destruction of the entire universe.
- Also in Sluggy, Oasis apparently has "Override B-1" whenever she encounters Hereti-Corp personnel. From all appearances, activating it makes her more focused and less compassionate — this being someone already Ax-Crazy.
- When someone blurts out in the middle of a firefight that Riff works for Hereti-Corp, he says "I quit" and Oasis goes back to fawning over Torg. Cue every Hereti-Corp agent in the room announcing their resignation and leaving.
- Being an artificial life form, Florence of Freefall was equipped with several.
- The robots have a verbal override command as well, which Florence used to prevent Blunt from attacking her in his effort to try to stop her from interfering with the release of Gardner in the Dark, which would effectively lobotomize all robots on Jean.
- In Commander Kitty, simply being an intelligent lifeform (or Fluffy) counts as this for the Triple-I's automated drone pilots.
- In Code Lyoko, Aelita can shut down any Tower by use of her handprint and inputting Code: LYOKO. Other codes exist, such as Code: EARTH, which materializes Aelita, and Code: XANA, which is essentially an override that deletes the entire Sector.
- An episode of Futurama with the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series:
George Takei: Does your ship have a self-destruct code? Like: 1A, 2B, 3C,—(Bender's head blows up)
Bender: Thanks a lot, Takei, now everyone knows.
- Dinobot's Heroic Sacrifice in Beast Wars was made possible by overriding his Stasis Lock protocol (basically a self-induced robotic coma if one is too low on energy or too banged up to function without injury).
- Although it violated the rules in order for drama since that was the only instance it announced it was going to work giving time to override it. All other times including with the character in question at earlier episodes they just immediately went into stasis lock, whether they wanted to continue to fight to the death or not.
- Unix and similar operating systems have "sudo" (which temporarily elevates your privileges for one command) and "su" (which elevates them until you undo it).note This is useful because you can accidentally run malicious or otherwise damaging programs, but as long as your privileges aren't elevated at the time, then the potential damage is limited.
- To prevent The Cracker from having an easy time of it, you must be in the sudoers file and re-enter your password (for "sudo"), or enter the root password (for "su").
- sudo make sandwich. Not to mention such possible combinations as sudo kill president and sudo destroy earth.
- Windows has "runas", which basically work the same as "sudo" (or "su", if the one command you run is "cmd").
- Also, many mainboards had — and partly still have — model or even brand wide override passwords or key combinations to circumvent the password protection of the BIOS or the whole system.
- In the business, it's called, "Removing the CMOS battery, waiting for it to forget the BIOS password, and then having our way with it."
- Or put a jumper on the pins marked "CLR_CMOS", wait a second, done.
- Forget your Windows user account password? Safe Mode gives you a password-free admin account that you can use to revert your account password (among other things). Well, only if you've been so stupid as not to set your Admin password (usually during Installation).
- if you did set your admin password you can reset it using tools like a Bart PE disk that boots your computer into a lite environment that will allow you to run diagnostics on your harddrive without worrying about it being in use along with being able to do background administrative tasks
- Websites that go to great length to explain the importance of long, complex, unguessable passwords, then suggest a password recovery question such as "Where do you live?" or "What is your mother's maiden name?"
- Wiser ones, though, will reset the password by sending out an email to the associated email on file and require resetting the password that way. Wiser users still will make the answer to these questions completely unrelated to the question itself (functionally, a secondary password).
- There is the magic SysRq key in Linux.
- If you forget the root password on a Linux system, you can boot into single-user mode and reset it without being prompted for a password, if the BIOS password hasn't been set at least.
- Ken Thompson, creator of the Unix operating system, produced one version whereby the login program had a back door. So just recompile from source, right? Except the C compiler was in on the joke too, and was programmed to add the back door to any case where it was building login, and to add the back-door-adding code to any case where it was building itself (so you could have a system where the programs were evil but the source looked 100% clean). And to add insult to injury, it was ''also'' programmed to recognize when it was building the disassembler, and alter it so the hacks wouldn't show up. No one knows if the back door made it out of Bell Labs.
- In 2009 a virus for Microsoft Windows that made use of this technique was found in a Delphi compiler. After being undetected in the wild for at least a year.
- The override code to a Playstation 2's parental lock is 7774. This activates the password reset. Since the Playstation 2 is notorious for not remembering its own passwords and/or parental lock settings, most players memorized that number.
- Those electronic signs you see at the side of the road sometimes? The default password is commonly DOTS.
- Most low end Internet routers have a "reset to defaults" button that needs to be paperclip-poked. This happens to be particularly useful when you're buying a used router and the previous owner forgot to give you the password.
- Higher end routers can also be defeated with physical access by connecting with a console cable.