Warning – the following article may contain spoilers

What it’s true of Black Mirror?

Charlton Brooker’s Black Mirror television series has become something of a phenomenon thanks to its almost prophetic predictions about society and technology. Set in the very near future, Black Mirror borrows technology stories from the media, and imagines the worst possible outcomes to create a bleak view of the world that we are creating today.

What makes Black Mirror so compelling is that the storylines are simultaneously outlandish and plausible. More impressive is the fact that some of the predictions have actually come true.

As the third season of Black Mirror airs on Netflix, it’s time to consider how close to reality the latest round of predictions really are.

Episode 3 – Shut up and dance

Hackers take control of a Kenny’s laptop, and use the webcam to secretly film him in a compromising situation. Kenny then receives a string of ransom texts to his phone, demanding he follow the supplied instructions or risk the embarrassing video being leaked to his friends, family and the rest of the world online.

The reality is that malware already exists to hack into computers, activating the web cam remotely. And like most malware, you probably won’t even notice anything is wrong until you receive a ransom demand or similar.

To prevent being spied on, some people take the extreme step of taping over their webcam – a method favoured by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Just as effective (and much easier to manage) is to protect your computer with a robust antivirus application like Panda Security that can detect and block malware before it can install itself.

Episode 6 – Hated in the nation

The Metropolitan Police investigate the brutal murder of a journalist in London. All the evidence seems to point to the woman’s husband, but of the detectives assigned to the case suspects that social media may also play a part.

As more deaths follow, it is discovered that a swarm of robot bees has been programmed to kill anyone trending online with the hashtag #DeathTo. The mob mentality of social media users is unwittingly singling out individuals for death.

The robot bees may not yet exist, but the vicious hashtags that accompany each attack in Black Mirror certainly do. Cyberbullying is widespread, and really does cause lasting damage to the victim, leading to stress, depression and, in extreme cases, suicide.

Online bots that respond to trending hashtags already exist, helping to spread viral messages, or trigger specific actions for companies that monitor social media. The artificial “intelligence” to drive a swarm of robot bees is ready, even if the technology is not.

To avoid attracting the attention of trolls online, parents should consider installing a comprehensive internet security package like Panda Gold Protection (you can download a free trial here). This will allow you to block access to sensitive sites – including social media – protecting your family against simple, unintentional mistakes becoming headline (life-threatening) news.

Horrifyingly close to reality

Black Mirror makes for uncomfortable viewing – mainly because it is so close to the reality we know. The dire outcomes of each episode are just realistic enough to create a terrifying view of the future. Fortunately you can avoid starting some of these chains of events with some effective internet security software.

For more help and advice about staying safe online, please get in touch.