Literature Liaden Universe Discussion

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07:39:34 AM May 6th 2012
edited by PaulA
The story so far.

Robotech_Master writes:

  • Hollywood Hacking: They do get better about this in later books, but in Carpe Diem Nova accesses a classified file containing information about the setting's Big Bad, the Department of the Interior simply by typing "Access Grid 703".

Paul A removes, with the edit message:

Nova accesses the classified file by logging in using an authorized user's (namely Val Con's) access details. That's not hacking.

Robotech_Master replaces, with the edit message:

Sure it is. She accessed a file she wasn't "supposed" to; that's hacking. You haven't ever heard of social engineering? Besides, the whole point of the trope mention is that there WERE no access details for Val Con, just a network address sufficiently generic anyone could have stumbled across it by accident.

Now read on.
07:48:25 AM May 6th 2012
Social engineering is tricking someone into giving you access you shouldn't have. It doesn't cover a friend voluntarily letting you use their access.

Anyway, the point is, Nova accesses the file after receiving a message from Val Con containing the address and something that looks to my eye like a password. When Nova acesses the file, the system assumes that she's Val Con, which says to me that these are not generic access details but details specifically assigned to him.
01:29:23 PM May 6th 2012
edited by Robotech_Master
Social engineering is when you get someone's name and password illicitly, yes. But the point is, it's still legally considered "hacking". Besides, people have been prosecuted for hacking (or the legalese equivalent of it, "unauthorized access to computers" or whatever it's called) even when they accessed information that they had previously been authorized to use using their own password—or when someone knowingly provided them with a password for them to use for some purpose that the owner of the system wouldn't like. Anyway, you're getting too hung up on the word "hacking" and missing the point of the trope.

Besides which: what password? The entirety of the message concerning it from the book is "Tell Shan: Access Grid seven-aught-three Repeat: Access Grid 703". That's not a password, that's an address. (What's more, it's awfully generic. Grid 703 of what system? How is a computer supposed to know what "Grid 703" even is?)

Of course, you can point to the fact that it does produce results and come up with plenty of ways to justify it from there, but none of those ways are present in the original text. The point of the Hollywood Hacking trope in the first place is just to point out that it looks funny from a standpoint of knowing how computer networks actually work in real life. That's not to say it's bad, just pointing out that it's there.

(See also: Justifying Edit.)
02:32:29 PM May 6th 2012
Pretty sure that this is hacking. Not sure if it's Hollywood Hacking - is it that easy to access computers with a password alone in Real Life?
03:07:52 PM May 6th 2012
As someone who knows a thing or two about computers (and had to hack his own computer multiple times due to his little brother changing the password), I can say that 'access grid whatever' is definitely Hollywood Hacking. The very least you have to hack a computer you have access to is to mess with the bootloader (for example, change some stuff in GRUB if you want to hack a Linux PC). Just 'accessing' a 'grid' won't do. Most definitely Hollywood Hacking.
08:34:00 PM May 6th 2012
As someone who knows a whole lot about computers, and has written cross-compilers for embedded systems and large-scale distributed web apps and patches for his own kernel, I can say that desdenelle's idea of "the very least you have to hack..." is hopelessly naive. Hacks can be done through all sorts of paths—privilege escalation, back doors, forgotten supervisor access through a neighboring machine, etc., etc. The example seems perfectly plausible given the context of an unknown future machine. At the same time, it's hopelessly simplistic, in that you don't get any details. As far as the reader is concerned, "magic happens". Which pushes it into the realm of Hollywood Hacking. But remember, Tropes Are Not Bad.
09:23:07 PM May 6th 2012
The entirety of the message concerning it from the book is "Tell Shan: Access Grid seven-aught-three Repeat: Access Grid 703".

...not in my copy of the book. (Which is the Meisha Merlin omnibus. And also not here right now, or I'd quote the message as I have it.)

If we're working from different evidence, no wonder we've drawn different conclusions!
11:31:23 PM May 6th 2012
I mean to say, that's the only thing in the message referring to the computer access. The rest of it is that Val Con is doing all right, but on a restricted world and stuff. I don't know what there was that could look like a password to you, all that comes after that is "Love to all" which is the closing. And there's certainly no password given later in the book when Nova accesses it.

At any rate, I still maintain that this is a fit example of Hollywood Hacking.
11:45:59 PM May 6th 2012
In my copy of the book, that specific section of the message that you quoted is longer. There's another word or two in it, both repetitions.
03:33:56 AM May 7th 2012
This is the message, as given in the Meisha Merlin edition: "Tell Shan: Access Grid seven-ought-three. \Trimex:Veldrad. Repeat: Access Grid 703 \Trimex:Veldrad."

The Baen ebook, on the other hand, has the short version you've already quoted.


Anyway, now that I know what you were looking at, I can see that "Hollywood Hacking!" is a reasonable response to have.
11:44:35 PM May 11th 2012
I went back and checked the old Embiid e-book edition and it didn't have "Trimex:Veldrad" either. I may be able to lay my hands on a print omnibus edition tomorrow and will check to see what's in it.

Even with the password, if that's what it is, I still think that it could support an entry under Hollywood Hacking.
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