Ubisoft has made quite the buzz in the news since releasing Watchdogs... It's rather laughable that most of the media has managed to spin this game into a step-by-step guide to computer hacking with a tap on your smart phone... Let's just end that debate by stating this 'hacking' is very much the same as it is in movies, except that the techno-jargon used in the scripted cut-scenes actually goes together unlike when they techno-babble on CSI: "blocking IP access on the backdoor of their gigaport", I mean, what? -OR- "they DDoS'ed 'her' facespace site"... Either the whole ". com" goes down or it does not, and a DDoS isn't actually a hack on its own, the thousands of Trojan infected zombie computers, on the other hand, were. Not to mention that they claimed 9000 hits a minute brought down a system processing millions of access requests per second.
On the other side of 'the spin' they have missed the undertones of a corporation that has access to every bit of digital information in a city and any 'big brother' type implication the story portrays. Actual game reviewers have also shied away from mentioning this, though I suppose that could be in order to not spoil the plot for those yet to play the game, but then, considering I already saw these references in the first hour of gameplay, that seems like a poor excuse.
The trouble I have with this obvious smokescreen is that technological convergence is not actually very far from how it is being portrayed in this game. Governments have been t trying to force factory installed backdoor access into a variety of products so that they have access to every single 'bit' of your digital footprint... You may not know who Cisco is, but chances are very high that your data passes through their hardware somewhere along its path. And the bigger issue is with an embedded backdoor is far beyond the government having access, which is already a terrible idea in its own right just for all the ways government employees will use it... What do you think the hacker community will focus on if there are built-in backdoors? Why: making streetlights hackable with a swipe of a cell phone, of course ;-)
Remember, just because it's not possible right now does not mean it's impossible under the right circumstances... There are tons of things I can do on my phone that were impossible just a few years ago... Like typing an entire blog entry :-D
I can't believe I've said all of this without my standard 'hacking' rhetoric, yet... You see, 'hacking' is not actually a criminal activity... Hacking, is finding alternate uses for something outside of its intended use, like, for example, there is IKEA hacking which is turning a TV stand and 2 night-tables into a computer desk, there are Google hacks like unit conversion or arithmetic which, granted, were programmed into the system but still fall outside of the 'search engine' description but having been programmed makes them completely legal and even endorsed by the company. Some hacking does lead to exploits and vulnerabilities but even finding such things is not illegal, what you do with these weaknesses could be. Motive always plays a role in criminality regardless of how the media like play it's broken record of 'drugs-r-bad' & 'hackers-r-terrorists'. The real trouble with the hacker archetype is their curiosity and their willingness to see things from a different perspective. Most hackers I've met have similar character traits: a general disregard for 'rules and regulations' especially those which serve little purpose, little respect for authority, hierarchy, or rank: respect is earned not assumed or bestowed by 3rd party, and they tend to be free-willed and free-thinking non-conformists to varying degrees. Though I suppose all of these things do make them a threat to a system built on arbitrary rules, lies, and hypnosis simply for not accepting the status quo.