In an age dominated by technology, our lives have become increasingly interconnected with the internet, offering both convenience and unforeseen circumstances.
In ‘Unlocked,’ a gripping Korean crime mystery thriller by director Kim Tae-joon, the film delves into the unsettling aftermath of cyber security breaches, painting a vivid picture of the consequences that unfold when our digital boundaries are violated.
The film revolves around Na Mi (Woo-hee Chun), a young photographer with an active online presence. Her life takes a harrowing turn when she loses her phone during a night out, unknowingly setting the stage for a relentless cyberstalker.
This accidental loss has profound implications for her personal and professional life, exposing the dark side of technology’s reach. This is a quick review of Netflix’s Unlocked through the eyes of cybersecurity experts.
Netflix Unlocked: Exploring the Narrative Through a Cybersecurity Lens
Netflix’s Unlocked also begins with a phone-hacking plot that goes beyond stalking. The movie’s protagonist, Na Mi, gets trapped in an endless circle of helplessness as the hackers gain access to her smartphone.
Na Mi’s ordeal begins when a stranger picks up her lost phone on a bus. Her inebriation prevents her from recalling the incident.
The next day, a girl contacts her, claiming to have found the phone. Na Mi arranges to meet her at a cafe, unaware that the person on the other end is a man using pre-recorded voice messages to deceive her.
A pre-recorded voice message or Interactive voice response (IVR) is a common thing in the IT world, and it can be used to manipulate the victim into revealing information and gaining access to their devices.
In the cafe, the imposter informs Na Mi that her phone is damaged and has been sent for repair. She’s directed to a rundown mobile repair shop, where she encounters a masked individual. In a grave oversight, she hands over her device and, along with it, her mobile security password.
This particular scene in Netflix’s Unlocked highlights human error as Na Mi shares a password with an unknown person even though she doesn’t need to because a mere screen replacement doesn’t require full access to her smartphone.
Sharing views on this scene, a Cyble researcher says, “It is true that a hacker can remotely control a victim’s device. The character in the film shared her password so the stalker can install spyware. We already know stalkerware and spyware are real, from nation-state level bought spyware like Pegasus to stalkerware like myspy.”
Analyzing Netflix’s Unlocked Phone Hacking Scene
This installation of spyware grants him unrestricted access to her life. He spies on her through the phone’s camera, tracking her every move, interaction, and conversation. As she sleeps, he further infiltrates her privacy, accumulating intimate details from her life.
Now, at this point, any spyware or application installed on the victim device shows a parallel effect. This includes a slow response in opening apps and fast battery drainage.
Quoting human error again, the Cyble researcher adds, “The character would have possibly suspected the speed of the phone changing/battery draining faster,” which is true because every app or service on the smartphone, including spyware, takes up battery and storage inside a phone, even though it’s only a few Megabyte, Kilobyte, or even a Byte.
As the story unfolds, Na Mi discovers an unexpected update on an anonymous account linked to her. The account posts a photo of her verbally abusing colleagues, causing irreparable damage to her professional life.
This incident tarnishes her reputation and exposes her as the account’s creator. The consequences are swift and severe, resulting in her termination from a recently acquired job promotion.
In parallel, police detective Ji Man (Kim Hee-won) unwittingly stumbles upon a series of gruesome murders with no traceable fingerprints or identities.
However, he discerns a connection between the victims and a plum tree he planted with his estranged son, Jun Yeong. He traces his son’s location through text messages exchanged with his wife to unearth the truth.
Netflix’s Unlocked Ending Explained (Spoiler Alert)
The ending of Netflix’s Unlocked takes a dramatic turn.
Ji-Man is closing in on Jun Yeong’s location, while Jun Yeong continues to deceive Na Mi by posing as an ordinary customer, gaining her trust and diverting suspicion.
Detectives investigate Jun Yeong’s mobile repair shop, finding clues related to a murder investigation, and Na Mi unknowingly gets involved as she repairs her phone there.
As Na Mi reconnects with Jun Yeong, a confrontation is set up at her apartment as detectives stake out the premises to apprehend him.
However, Ji-Man struggles to recognize his son due to years of estrangement. Jun Yeong escapes, leaving doubts about his guilt. Meanwhile, Na Mi discovers Jun Yeong’s true nature, leading to a dangerous situation.
Jun Yeong realizes the police are closing in when he finds a cryptic note, leading to a brutal confrontation.
Ji-Man finally understands that the person before him is an imposter, not his son, as he reads a collection of notes detailing the murders.
In a shocking twist, Na Mi regains consciousness and angrily shoots the imposter.
The hacker appears to be eliminated, but the film ends with an unsettling moment when Na Mi spots someone outside her window with a camera, highlighting the danger of cyber invasion targeting her once again.
Concluding the review of Netflix’s Unlocked, the Cyble researcher say that “the only really unrealistic part is the main character going to a dingy mobile store ALONE and giving the ‘repair person’/stalker the password without suspecting anything. Nobody I know would do that. Also, many now would remotely wipe/backup their devices/use a sim lock code.”