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Film / Hackers

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"Hack the planet!"

A 1995 techno-thriller directed by Iain Softley, about a small group of underground computer hackers who discover a scheme being run by the security chief of a large corporation.

In a prologue flashback, Dade Murphy, age 11, going by the hacker alias Zer0 Cool, is found guilty of crashing 1,507 computers, and single-handedly causing a drop in the New York Stock Exchange. In deference to his age, he is sentenced to seven years of probation, in which he is forbidden from owning or operating a computer or touch-tone telephone.

Fast forward seven years: Dade's mother, now divorced and with full custody of Dade (Jonny Lee Miller), moves them both to New York for a fresh start. Dade struggles to make friends, but ends up falling in with a new hacking crowd, including Phantom Phreak (Renoly Santiago), Cereal Killer (Matthew Lillard), Lord Nikon (Laurence Mason)... and Joey (Jesse Bradford). Not long after, Joey, the kid of the group, breaks into a supercomputer at Ellingson, a large oil and mineral conglomerate. In a Contrived Coincidence, he downloads part of a worm program — one created by the crooked head of IT Security for Ellingson, Eugene "the Plague" Belford (Fisher Stevens), himself a hacker gone pro. Belford is using the worm to quietly embezzle many millions of dollars from Ellingson.

Seeing an opportunity, the security chief creates a virus called daVinci - which threatens to infect and sink several Ellingson oil tankers, thus causing a major global ecological disaster. Having 'found' the virus, Belford presents the virus's threat as a reason to contact the Secret Service to help find the intruder. When the Secret Service investigates with Ellingson's cooperation, Belford discovers Dade (and his past as Zer0 Cool) and pressures him to get the file Joey downloaded - ultimately threatening to alter law enforcement databases so his mother gets "disappeared into the system." Dade gets Belford the file - but realizes his mistake soon after. Now, it's up to Dade, Phreak, Cereal, Nikon, and Kate (Angelina Jolie), Dade's crush, herself the hacker Acid Burn, to figure out the truth, and get the evidence they need to clear their names.

Hackers is known for referencing top-of-the-line computers of the time (now horribly, horribly outdated) and unrealistic depictions of hacking, but it nevertheless remains quite entertaining. It's also notable as being one of the earliest appearances of Angelina Jolie, who plays Dade's love interest, Kate. (Miller and Jolie would end up getting married not long after the movie finished - it was the first marriage for them both, and it ended up falling apart not long after.) While real computer hackers will sneer at the movie in public (except for those who find the research failure to be funny as HELL), secretly they desperately wish that it were true: it's a world where hackers are slim and trendy, hackers save the world from evil corporations, and most importantly, Angelina Jolie ditches her jock boyfriend for a hacker.

Another thing that was notable about the movie is that this also features the prototype footage for a certain anti-gravity racing game series...

This film provides examples of:

  • As the Good Book Says...: Cereal Killer quotes Corinthians to try to get Dade and Kate to set aside their differences:
    Cereal Killer: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things!
  • Asshole Victim: A non-lethal kind. When Dade hacks a TV network he does it to interrupt a show where an obnoxious host is spouting a racist rant on the inferiority of Africans and Native Americans.
  • Badass Boast: "Mess with the best, die like the rest." With the skills to back it up.
  • Badass Bookworm: The hackers. They're not action heroes, but are active, smart, skilled, and ready to fight evil. Kate's even set on going to MIT.
  • Badass Longcoat: The Plague works longcoats into his wardrobe constantly, although they're a bit more flamboyant than the usual example.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Dade has an erotic dream with Kate breaking into his room, then opening her jacket (revealing nothing underneath) - that turns into a Catapult Nightmare of Secret Service agents pulling Kate away and arresting Dade.
    • Later, we see another erotic dream in progress, of someone in a sexy vinyl catsuit - who turns out to be Dade, not Kate. Cue Kate waking up from her dream.
  • Beard of Evil: The Plague.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Razor and Blade get their moment, leading an army of hackers from around the world.
  • Big Eater: Cereal Killer is constantly munching on snacks when with the group, just like another character that Matthew Lillard would go on to play. The fact that he went off to get a snack is the reason he doesn't get picked up later at Grand Central.
  • Blatant Lies: Cereal Killer fingers Joey as the fiend who finished all the french fries. Nobody falls for it, since Cereal has been munching on them for an entire scene.
    • Cereal and Phreak deny knowing who Acid Burn is. They even share a knowing look when asked who "he" is.
  • Brick Joke:
    • The pool on the roof is used as a gag twice, then as a romantic locale in the final scene.
    • Phreak uses a tone recording in Cyberdelia to avoid paying for a payphone. Later, Razor and Blade's Hack the Planet show has them explaining how it works.
    • Dade's first and last on-screen hacks use the Badass Boast, "Mess With The Best, Die Like The Rest."
    • The major situation starts due to Joey finding and partially download the garbage file, which leads him and his friends into trouble. The second time he participates in a hack against the Plague, he is the one who downloads the file completely, which leads to getting him and his friends out of trouble.
  • Buffy Speak: "It's in that place where I put that thing that time."
  • Calling the Cops on the FBI: The title computer criminals harass their arch enemy, Secret Service agent Richard Gill, by creating a fake criminal record for him that causes the police to arrest him.
  • Catapult Nightmare: After Dade Murphy has a visit from the authorities, he has a dream where his Slap-Slap-Kiss Love Interest Kate enters his room and starts kissing him, then the authorities enter and arrest them. He wakes up and sits up in bed.
    • Kate gets one too, except it's not a nightmare - but her erotic dream about Dade.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The discussion of common passwords both serves as setup for a soon-to-follow scene and a Brick Joke.
    "'God' wouldn't be up this late..."
    • Even more of a Chekov's Gun when we discover that Plague's partner in crime and woman he's been sleeping with, Margo, is the one the password belongs to (and he would probably know her sleep schedule).
  • Chekhov's Gunman: "Welcome to Hack the Planet..."
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Cereal Killer, partially crossed over with Bunny-Ears Lawyer.
    "Meet Cereal Killer. As in 'Froot Loops.'"
  • Contrived Coincidence: Looking for something to take to prove he managed to get inside Ellingson's Gibson, Joey decides to download a seemingly unimportant garbage file - that just happens to be the worm that Plague's using to embezzle from the company. Slightly justified by A. Hiding a file by making it look like a garbage file is a good move, and B. A garbage file being the only thing you copy while hacking into a big mainframe is also a good idea - it's not proprietary information that the company will spend lots of time and effort going after.
  • Coolest Club Ever: Cyberdelia, an appropriate 'cyber-nightclub that has a full complement of skate ramps, a video game console about as large as a mid-sized room (featuring an alpha version of WipEout), and of course, techno music ("Cowgirl" by Underworld). It's also by invite only.
  • The Cracker: The Plague.
  • Credit Card Destruction: The main FBI agent's credit card is shredded at a restaurant after his account has been hacked.
  • Credits Gag: Special Agent Richard Gill is listed in the credits as "Dick Gill."
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Joey is portrayed as the consummate dumbass wannabe hacker... except all it takes is a few vague hints from Dade to let him hack into a high security supercomputer, and in the final hacking duel it's implied he was outdoing virtually everyone. ("Yo, Joey's gettin' stupid over here!")
  • Cursed with Awesome: Lampshaded by Lord Nikon regarding his Photographic Memory, after he explains that he has memorised the addresses and phone numbers of every girl at the party they attend:
    • Played a bit more straight later on when he's spent an entire day accumulating data to the point that he honestly isn't sure what's useful and useless.
      "I dunno, man, I got a lot up there. My head hurts."
  • Cyberbullying: The clique at Dade Murphy's new school learn that Federal agent Dick Gill has sworn to track, identify and nullify "internet terrorists." This is the clique's Berserk Button, whereupon they amass as much personal data on Agent Gill as they can, then monkey-wrench his life. Most notably, while dining in an expensive restaurant with his wife and some friends, his credit card gets snipped in two on the spot as though he were some deadbeat.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: The soundtrack (released over three volumes) was pretty much a pantheon of 90's electronic music.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: How our hackers were cleared after being framed.
  • Downer Beginning: The film starts with the 1988 arrest and trial of then-11 year old Dade Murphy, then known as "Zero Cool", for crashing 1,507 computers with his computer virus. Dade would be sentenced to probation, where he is forbidden from owning or operating a computer or phone until he turns 18 years old.
  • Dueling Hackers: Part of the climax.
    • Earlier, the duel between Crash and Burn.
  • Embarrassing First Name: It's "The Plague." Definitely not his real name of Eugene.
  • Erotic Dream: Dade has one about Kate - that turns into a nightmare. Kate has an especially erotic dream about Dade.
  • Everything Is Online: Including school sprinkler systems and tankers.
  • Fanservice: Angelina Jolie has a brief topless scene that does not advance the plot in any way.
    • Later, in the pre-duel montage, she's wearing a very sheer shirt.
  • Foil: The Plague, for Dade/Crash. Dade is an altruist who uses his hacking skills to help others and fight corruption, and maybe a bit of playful pranking. Plague sells out other hackers to cover his tracks. Dade got probation for a youthful hack that unintentionally caused a seven point drop in the stock market, Plague works for a major mineral and Wall Street company — and is intentionally ripping it off. Plague even reprises Dade's "You talkin' to me?" line in the final duel. Also, Dade uses rollerblades, Plague skateboards.
  • Foreshadowing: A poster for Razor and Blade's show can be seen behind Dade when he enters Cyberdelia.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • When the FBI agent is being interviewed on the news, he is going on about how hackers are dangerous criminals, while Joey, who they just arrested, can be seen in the background sucking his thumb.
    • Although neither Kate, nor Dade, is shown doing this, during the scene in the restaurant where Gill's credit card is being cut, you can also see his car through the window. Being towed.
    • During the montage of Dade poring through the garbage file while the others looks through a mountain of printed hardcopy, there are split second cuts of Kate and Cereal tango dancing, Nikon strangling Cereal, and Kate stabbing a sheaf of printer paper with a katana.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: During the climatic last battle of the movie, Razor and Blade (who suggested this plan in the first place), along with hackers from England, Japan, Russia, and Italy (and presumably other countries as well) digitally join in with the crew in New York to hammer the Gibson under Plague's — by this point almost manic — control.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: LA COMPUTADORA DE MIERDA! note 
  • Hacked by a Pirate: All over the place. 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.
  • Hacker Collective: The movie is about this, if well The Protagonist is loosely based on the real life hacker codenamed "Zero Cool", he's part of a hackers collective which attack together to make some kind of "social justice".
  • Hidden Depths: Did anyone expect Cereal Killer to use a Bible quote in a motivational speech?
    • In universe, the heroes have no idea that Dade (who they think is a talented amateur) is the Famed In-Story Zero Cool.
  • Hollywood Hacking: The Movie. Not just Rapid-Fire Typing, but in spinning phone booths with VR goggles!
    • Albeit oddly averted for one scene where they trace through page after page of hardcopy coredump, something familiar with many people trying to figure out why the OS entered kernel panic.
    • As Roger Ebert pointed out in his (positive!) review, what real hacking looks like, and what real hackers can actually accomplish are both pretty boring, at least for an audience to watch.
    • That said, in the final hacking duel, Dade has to read the full file code to Joey, with roots and slashes and all.
    • Director Iain Softley said the visuals were meant to be metaphorical rather than accurate, trying to capture an LSD-like look for the hacking scenes.
    • It also fairly accurately depicts some of the things about hacking at the time, in that it was mostly based around social engineering, fast talking, taking advantage of the ignorance of the standard user, and dumpster diving. (Dade gets access to the TV station by literally calling in and getting a security guard to read him the information he needs to access the modem... something that would become outmoded with the standardization of caller ID, firewalls, and other defenses the early internet didn't typically have.)
  • Humiliating Wager: Dade Murphy and Kate Libby have a contest to see who's the best hacker. If Murphy wins then Kate will go on a date with him, if Kate wins Murphy will do scut work for her. In a later round of the contest they make another bet: whoever loses will have to wear a dress during their date.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: Given the nature of the movie and the counter-culture being represented, it's hardly surprising that quite a few of the outfits in the movie, while stylish, come off as impractical.
    • Oddly inverted when Dade runs after Plague's limo after giving him the floppy. It's clear from the lighting that there is a strap connecting the legs of his pants near the knee but it doesn't seem to hamper his running abilities.
    • During the club scene where Crash and Burn go to recruit Razor and Blade, one extra is prominently seen...dressed as a chandelier. Her headwear alone is this trope up to 11.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Cereal leaves the room to let Kate try to convince Dade to help. He goes straight for the Muphy's fridge.
  • Invisible Parents: Although Kate's mother Ruth Libby is mentioned as being a bestselling self-help and relationship advice author (which explains why Kate has a top-of-the-line laptop), she's not ever seen, even at Kate's party. There's no mention of a dad at all - though one might explain that as a case of The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes.
    • Cereal Killer goes to the same high school as Dade, Kate, Phreak and Joey, but considering how often he asks to crash on other's couches - he might actually be homeless and on his own.
  • Ironic Echo: "You talkin' to me?"
  • It's All About Me: Gill really doesn't know anything about computers, but he loves giving TV interviews where he can puff himself up.
  • It's Personal: Dade, having an existing criminal record, avoided getting involved... until The Plague threatened his mother.
    • Subverted since in the final hacking duel, the Plague targets Dade specifically and cuts him off, but Joey is the one who manages to download the garbage file. And then it's Cereal (with the help of Razor and Blade) who expose the Plague's crimes.
  • Jerkass: The Plague certainly is one.
    • All the Secret Service agents, save Agent Ray. Agent Richard Gill is a Jerkass Boss.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Phreak getting arrested brings Dade, Kate, Cereal, and Nikon together into a true team to figure out the truth and how to clear their names.
  • Living a Double Life: Although it remains largely unexplored, there are a few dots of fairly substantial evidence that imply Agent Ray (Marc Antony) is himself a hacker, or if not, is at least a part of the local subculture surrounding it. He's at least reasonably knowledgeable about computers, especially compared to his co-workers, if his brief conversation with Agent Gill during Joey's arrest is any indication, and when Agent Bob is reading him an excerpt of the Hacker's Manifesto, he simply states that he thinks it's cool. He can also be seen briefly at Kate's party, very successfully blending innote.
  • Meaningful Rename: The whole point to hacker handles.
    • Dade got arrested ("crashed") but now he's back ("override").
    • Also, 'Lord Nikon', to reference the hacker's photographic memory'.
    • Given his affinity for hacker and counter-cultural lore, Cereal Killer's handle may be an obtuse reference to John "Cap'n Crunch" Draper.
  • Mobstacle Course: The heroes use the crowds at Grand Central Station to their advantage against the Secret Service who are coming to arrest them.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kate. Then again, she's an Angelina Jolie character, so it shouldn't really be surprising.
  • My Beloved Smother: Joey's and Ramon's mothers. Joey's babies him, orders him to go to bed and shuts down the computer when he's hacking the Gibson (the Plague and Pen Jillette's character both assume that it was him logging out to try to avoid a trace) and when the FBI barges into Ramon's room, Ramon's mother starts dope-slapping him and haranguing him in Gratuitous Spanish so Ramon actually begs the FBI agents to take him away.
  • The '90s: Painfully so from the music choice to the graphics to the fashion style.
  • Noodle Incident: That time Phreak hid that thing in that place.
  • One Phone Call: When Ramon gets arrested.
  • Online Alias: Most people use two word phrases, like Acid Burn or Crash Override. Which leads to...
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: ...the hackers mostly refer to each other by their handles. In fact, while each of the main characters' real names are used at least twice, Nikon's real name (Paul Cook) is said only once in passing, so he really is only known by his nickname.
    • Averted with Dade. He doesn't really want to advertise that he's Zero Cool, but beyond Kate saying his new handle once in a dismissive fashion, and Cereal once when he points out the "Crash and Burn" coincidence, no one calls him Crash Override. He's just "Dade" to everyone else.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Or at least it is when whoever chose the password didn't think things throughnote .
    The Plague: Someone didn't bother reading my carefully prepared memo on commonly-used passwords. Now, then, as I so meticulously pointed out, the four most-used passwords are: love, sex, secret, and... GOD. So, would Your Holiness care to change her password?
  • Parents as People: Dade's mom gets a lot of development as her own person, rather than simply "a parent."
  • Penny Shaving: The MacGuffin is a worm that steals pennies from every transaction that the Ellingson Mineral Company conducts. A better example than most because the money isn't actually gone; it's just data being shifted around... until it completes its run, transfers the money to a numbered account in the Bahamas and makes a great big mess to cover its tracks.
  • Pet the Dog: After being at her wits' end with Dade for the last seven years due to his hacking addiction and the massive amounts of legal and financial trouble it's caused their family, Dade's mother calmly tells the FBI that her son is a genius, and on the cutting edge of a new global paradigm that none of them can understand. As the intercom is on at the time, both Dade and Kate overhear this and are incredibly touched.
  • Photographic Memory: Lord Nikon has one. Among other things, he has memorized the addresses and phone numbers of every girl at the party they attend.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: invoked Played with, as parts of Dade's ("Crash Override") and Kate's ("Acid Burn") handles come together to make an amusing title. ("Crash and Burn").
    • Dade even gets the lights of the buildings across from the pool to spell out "Crash and Burn."
  • The Power of Friendship: Or the power of community, anyway.
    "You're not good enough to beat me!"
    "Yeah, maybe I'm not. But we are, asshole."
  • Public Secret Message: After being arrested, Dade slips the floppy disk with the evidence into a trash bin. Taken outside, he sees Cereal Killer in the crowd and goes off on a rant, "They're TRASHING our rights, man! They're TRASHING the flow of data! They're TRASHING!...." Cereal gets the message, and is next seen rummaging through the trash bin.
  • Playful Hacker: There's even a quote from Loyd Blankenship's famous "Hacker's Manifesto".
  • Properly Paranoid: Right after Phreak gets the garbage file disk from Joey and sees the Secret Service tail marking Joey, he books it. He makes a clean getaway, but then is shown scrubbing his bedroom of every scrap of paper that might be incriminating evidence. It doesn't help, as he gets arrested because the Service isn't much interested in playing by due process rules anyway.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing: every main character in the movie does this, but one particular scene is notable: when Dade uses Kate's new computer and the camera shows us that he's operating several Viewer-Friendly Interface programs at blinding speeds.
    Kate: I hope you don't screw like you type.
    • Amusingly enough, it's painfully clear (especially in the TV station scene) that Jonny Lee Miller is a very slow typer.
  • Samus Is a Girl: For the first half of the film, neither Dade nor the audience know that Acid Burn is actually Kate Libby.
  • Sarcastic Confession:
    Dade's Mom: (through his closed bedroom door) Dade, what are you doing?
    Dade: I'm... taking over a tv network.
    Dade's Mom: Finish up honey, and get to bed.
  • Schmuck Bait: Dade falls for the classic high school prank of the nonexistent rooftop pool.
  • Shipper on Deck: Cereal, and to a lesser extent, Phreak and Nikon, get a kick out of matchmaking Crash and Burn.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Dade's first hack as a teen starts with a Bavarian Fire Drill using the pseudonym Eddie Vedder.
    • Kate's boyfriend refers to Dade and his friends as 'Leopard Boy and the Decepticons.'
    • Cereal Killer's real name is "Emmanuel Goldstein", likely a reference to 2600 founder and editor Eric Corley (a consultant on the film), who himself uses the name as a reference to the figurehead enemy of Big Brother in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four."
      • Cereal himself namedrops 1984 in an early scene.
    • Plague's alias in the aircraft was "Mr. Babbage". Charles Babbage was credited as the originator of the concept for the programmable computer.
    • The elite supercomputers of the movie are called "Gibsons" which is a nod to William Gibson. This also counts as artistic license, as such machines are more typically called "Big Iron" (a term also used in the film).
    • You talkin' to me?
    • Right before the assault on the Gibson, Cereal lets out a shriek, calling it a "tension breaker". This mirrors a scene before the final exam in the 1987 Mark Harmon comedy Summer School.
    • Crash Override's TV show of choice is The Outer Limits.
    • One film from the montage of fight scenes in the first Crash and Burn duel is the climactic sword fight from Captain Blood.
    • Phreak to Joey: "Hey, Boy Meets World, let's go."
  • Skyscraper Messages: The finale has Crash having rigged windows visible from their Rooftop Swimming Pool to read "Crash + Burn", which really impresses Burn that much more.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Due to Dade's nervousness over his crush on Kate, their relationship ends up like this.
  • Smart People Play Chess: With only a few hours until everyone's plans go into effect, Nikon and Cereal spent their free time playing chess in the park. And winning.
  • Smug Snake: The Plague. Oh goodness, The Plague.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": He's "The Plague", not "Mister Plague". (At which point, Penn follows up with "Mister The Plague".)
  • Stupid Crooks: When Joey mentions he hacked a bank in Idaho, the gang points out how stupid he is for hacking across state lines from home.
  • Taking the Heat: After their arrest following the climactic run on the Gibson, Dade and Kate are being interrogated together — Kate is playing silent, but Dade is copping out and claiming full responsibility, and that Kate is 'just his girlfriend.' After they get left alone for a few moments, Kate asks Dade what he's doing, because they know full well they're both equally involved. It's clear Dade knows he's screwed thanks to his record, but Kate could get out with just a warning or probation like he did as a kid if he does this. Fortunately, this gets interrupted with Cereal's Do Not Adjust Your Set moment, revealing Plague's evil plan.
  • Tech Bro: A prototypical example, as this film was made decades before the stereotype fully emerged in The New '10s. Despite being hardcore computer geeks who gush over Kate's top-of-the-line laptop, the hackers are all hip, rowdy and in-shape teenagers that hang out in the Coolest Club Ever. The Big Bad is a corporate security consultant with an equally irreverent attitude, and is introduced riding through his employer's data center on a skateboard.
  • Television Geography: On their way to Grand Central, Cereal and Nikon run down MacDougal St (just off Washington Square Park, where they were playing chess) and turn the corner directly onto... what looks like South Broadway at 23rd St. Impressive.
    • For non-New Yorkers, that's a distance of about a mile depending on where they started and stopped.
  • Those Two Guys: Razor and Blade, hosts of "Hack the Planet".
  • Title Drop: Yeah, the word "hackers" gets tossed around a lot throughout the film. There is also a Tagline drop, too (the "Their Crime Is Curiosity" one on the poster above): it's part of Loyd Blankenship's "Hacker's Manifesto", which is read aloud by Agent Ray during a stakeout early on.
  • Truth in Television: The Secret Service actually did engage in widespread raids and arrests of computer hackers in the years before this movie came out. Hackers were mostly harassed in similar ways as those shown in the movie. At least one of these cases led to the creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
    • It is perhaps helpful to know that while the Secret Service is known for protecting The President, the vast majority of their time (and their original mission) is investigating financial crimes such as counterfeiting, or attacks on interstate trade systems — which is where they would cross paths with hackers, both benign and malignant. When the movie was made, the Secret Service was part of the Treasury Department.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: How Dade and Kate celebrate their victory. In a pool on a roof.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Richard Gill is a Jerkass, but he's not doing anything wrong; he's a Secret Service agent tracking down computer criminals, who happen to be the protagonists.
  • Wager Slave: If Kate Libby wins the contest to see who's the best hacker, Murphy will do scut work for her: "Scan, crack copyrights, whatever I want."
  • Waistcoat of Style: Part of The Plague's standard attire.
  • We Can Rule Together: Plague tries to recruit Dade to his side on multiple occasions, though it's ambiguous just how much he meant his offer and how much he was just trying to get the information off of Dade.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Phreak's last appearance was his phone call to Acid Burn, and he's never mentioned directly again.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: In the course of stopping the tankers from capsizing and obtaining the evidence of the real villain's embezzlement scheme, the heroes commit several instances of network intrusion and related crimes, involving a global conspiracy to grind Ellingson's server to a halt while looking for the MacGuffin. Yet the Secret Service apparently doesn't prosecute them for it, since we see Dade and Kate living (more or less) happily ever after at the end. This is most likely because the truth (which was broadcast worldwide by other hackers) embarrassed the SS to no end - Essentially, The Plague manipulated the SS into assisting him in terrorism-for-blackmail. Also, the hackers complete destruction of the Ellingson Supercomputer actually averted a worldwide global disaster, a whole fleet of oil tankers capsizing in oceans the world over, that was actually in the process of beginning when they started the attack.