A group of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Upstate New York have published a paper demonstrating that the most important – and really, the only – skill one needs to hack a government mainframe, global communications satellite network, or alien mothership is a strong belief in one’s own capabilities.
According to the computer scientists’ findings, no other abilities or knowledge came close to being as important as self-interested positivity. As part of their study, the research team looked into other potentially critical hacking skills, including an understanding of various programming and scripting languages, software development, hardware compatibility, operating system interoperability, networking protocols, command line tools, virtual environments, standard and nonstandard security techniques, database design, digital forensics, cryptographic principles, and reverse engineering. In terms of importance for getting the job done, all of these fell far below a keen belief that you could reverse the fate of the universe.
To reach their conclusions, the team of research professors and doctoral students studied documentation from the most notorious hacks over the last forty years. Some of the hacks they looked at include the infiltration of the War Operation Plan Response supercomputer at NORAD, the break-in of The Gibson supercomputer owned by Ellingson Mineral, disruption of the NURV global communications network, and the theft of Setec Astronomy’s magical black cryptography box by a group of sneakers.
For those who may not be confident in their hacking abilities, the researchers also developed a foolproof formula for successfully brute-forcing your way into any system, whether it be your school’s grading software or an underground, air-gapped machine where a mad scientist keeps all of his plans to destroy the world. The four elements identified by the researchers are:
- A friend looking worriedly over your shoulder (alternatively, talking to you through an ear bud)
- A series of taps on the keyboard (the optimal number of taps appears to be nine)
- A screen with scrolling computer code
- A relieved sigh of relief as you lean back in your chair and say, “We’re in”
The addition of a slow-moving progress bar increases your chances of success by 72%.