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24 Live Another Day Technology Challenge

“24: Live Another Day” Tech Challenge 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM

By Christine Halsey, BSEET, MSET | Professor - College of Engineering & Information Sciences, DeVry University

An attack on Wimbley stadium, the apparent death of President Heller, and Jack still doesn’t have time to relax – the drone crisis has only just begun.  Loyal 24 fans know there is always room for a twist or turn and even jaw-dropping surprise deaths, but when pivotal characters seemingly are killed and come back, it’s safe to say the hour’s drama is heightened.  In this case, so was the technology that got us there.

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

•  The surprise twist had to have been orchestrated on complex systems – and quickly. We come to find out that Jack’s right-hand woman Chloe has hacked into Al Harazi’s server to plant a looped video feed to make it seem as though President Heller is in the middle of Wimbley. As Chloe watches her tech trick come to fruition, Margot deployed the drone’s missile. While certainly feasible on film (think Speed), this sort of dupe would take a team to move quickly and deftly.

•  Uncovering the fatal oversight, Al Harazi seizes control of the last drone and sets sights on the Waterloo Tube station. Given the quick timing of the missile launch and last minute scramble that an attack is imminent – Never fear, Chloe’s here!

• Using a program to hack the Navstar satellite, Chloe sends Jack to Al Harazi’s location.  From a tech perspective, this is quite skeptical given the short timing, computer skills needed and man power Jack and team did not have but would certainly need. Assuming Al Harazi is the only signal online, it could be possible that a government tracking system could be that precise (but everyday tech pros and hackers would not have such tracking programs).

• Beyond computers, let’s talk physics. The cable Jack uses to repel down the building would NOT support his weight or bend in the same manner. 

• Finally, Jack takes control and diverts the missile to a waterway by punching keys and using a joystick for guidance. This is possible, but the speed at which it happened was a bit of a stretch.

• Jack transports the drone hacking device to CTU where it will be safe…or will it?

• Agent Morgan scans the fingerprint of the person that killed CTU analyst Jordan Walker. Jack sends a copy to a friend, even though Navarro insist that he will handle it.

• Meanwhile at CTU, analyst Jordan Walker’s death is a mystery, and station chief Steve Navarro is feeling hot under pressure. To escape, he quickly steals Al Harazi’s device, which has the power to break any military system firewalls. While any trained military personnel could feasibly have the know-how to pull off this heist, one would think such a very dangerous tool would be more heavily guarded.

Margot and her son are dead, but their wrath continues as Navarro is gone and of course, despite his luck with timing earlier, Jack was just a minute too late to stop this next wave of drama.

Tick, tick…

8:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Old foes comes back to haunt Jack with a gun-filled get-together. In typical 24 style, this hour started with a chase scene with inexplicably bulletproof props and a lack of geographical awareness. It ended with Navarro being arrested without the device, as it has fallen into the hands of Adrian Cross.

•  We soon find out Chloe and Adrian are entwined in an awkward love affair, and Cross supposedly designed the device. His plan is to make it open-source in an effort to end all global conflict. Jack has to find it – and fast. 

• Wireless biometric devices are used to monitor Navarro for lie detection. It’s important to note many people are trained to manipulate lie detectors, but Jack and Agent Morgan manage to get a tracking code Navarro put on the device.

• Tracking seems to be a consistent theme this season. Chief of staff Mark Beadreau gives the Russians a code to trace Jack’s phone, a surprising twist that could lead to more trouble.

• Speaking of surprising, Adrian’s team managed to activate the device rather quickly as compared to the suspenseful hours Al Hazari’s team took earlier in the day. Perhaps we can attribute this to their superior hacking and computer skills, but then why did they take so long to pinpoint the location?

• The supposedly long-gone Cheng Zhi is back and wreaking havoc – yes, the same Cheng Zhi who tortured Jack. Using fear to elicit compliance, Cheng makes Chloe help him track the device before the government can which allowed him to sink a Chinese carrier. Given what we know about the capabilities of this device, this seems feasible, though I’d like to think something of this nature does not exist, as it would give free reign to all the bad guys like Cheng.

• Cheng is not the only one Jack has to fear; just as the Chinese sink the carrier, Jack is shooting his way out of a sticky situation with the Russians.

With all this tracking going on, it’s safe to say no one is unwatched. One might think it would be quite simple to prove to the Chinese government that Cheng is alive and devised the attack on the carrier, but somehow the tracking and radars don’t seem to catch him.  Without that evidence, war is looming…

Tick, tick…

9:00 PM – 10:00 PM

So many pieces of this day have been picked up – the terrorist is dead. The drones are secure. President Heller is alive, and the inside traitor has been arrested.  All that’s left is to stop the pending world war.

• In a rare act of non-murder, Cheng keeps Chloe alive to tap her computer smarts. As they flee Adrian’s safe house, he calls the Russians to let them know they are en route. Yes, Jack’s two enemies are working together, and surprisingly, no one is tracking either of these bad guys.

• As Jack finally gets free from Russian gunfire, he learns Mark tracked his “secure” phone and tipped off the Russians.  This only leads me to wonder, if they can give the Russians the ability to track Jack, why isn’t he also tracking the Russians to cover bases?

• President Heller meets with the Chinese President on a video conference call that has clarity we all envy. Just as before with Al-Harazi, there are no video conference controls on the screen, and the connection is seemingly magic. Even for TV, this is a technological oversight.

• While trying to hack into Port Authority, Cheng’s men launch two missiles to take out two surveillance satellites as Chloe escapes certain death. What happens next is another misstep. The missiles wouldn’t force the computers to reboot. Instead, they’d simply lose the visual. 

• Meanwhile Jack’s CIA analyst hacks into the security of the Russian contact (finally) to help him break in and determine Chengs’ next steps. This seems totally feasible, but again, the speed at which the government systems can hack into common security far surpasses anything I’ve seen.

We are left in suspense as Jack receives no intel, and Audrey is on the other side of town in a covert meeting, where she is left without any security detail. Tick, tick…

 

10:00pm-11:00pm

Can Jack Bauer singlehandedly stop global nuclear war? In a mere 11 hours, Jack Bauer has infiltrated the CIA, defeated a drone plot, saved London, rescued the president, arrested a high-ranking CIA official and the White House chief of staff , reunited with an old girlfriend and indirectly murdered another Russian politician. Now he has to locate his Chinese arch-nemesis...IN AN HOUR.

• Audrey is at a standstill with a sniper. Jack and Agent Morgan search for any clue that can lead to Cheng. As it turns out, a phone locked by a fingerprint scanner was hidden in a drawer. This technology, compared to everything else we’ve seen, seems almost common.

• Back in the White House, the US military is tracking the Chinese fleet.  This didn’t look much like a satellite feed, and it seems highly unlikely they are transmitting their current location. This technology is not accurate.

• To stir up a little more anticipation, Cheng shares picture of Audrey that appears to be from the scope of a gun. I’ve never heard of a gun that can send pictures, but it’s feasible by adding a small device to an existing gun. In fact, this seems like a smart innovation if it doesn’t already exist.

• Chloe, who has recently escaped, connects with Jack and hacks into an infrared transponder to connect to a satellite and track Cheng’s men on the ship. I didn’t know until I watched this and did a little digging myself, but there are satellites that show thermal images (e.g., LandSat and Aster). Most anyone who uses satellite for TV knows about reprogramming transponders to locate a satellite signal, but this takes the tracking up another level. She uses this to be Jack’s eyes in the sky and alert him when to take out Cheng’s men.

• When he realizes he is under attack, Cheng orders his men to stop Chloe’s signal, but I don’t know that they could have cut her off unless she was directly wired.  It would be easy to put noise in the vocal communications, but he couldn’t change or prevent her signal unless he cut the wire.

• Agent Morgan is working stealthy elsewhere, as she takes out Audrey’s sniper only to call in for Jack’s back up on the ship and then be attacked by Cheng’s men on the ground. Unfortunately, this was the end for Audrey.

• With the knowledge that his love is dead, Jack turns up the ammunition and takes out the Chinese, captures Cheng and transmits his vocal and facial recognition back to the President to ultimately ward off a world war. With that, he kills Cheng only to find out Chloe is missing.

Sadly, our hero flies off into the sunset after he rescues his best friend and ethical hacker. Are his days numbered or does this open the door to another day down the road?

Throughout the series, we saw drone and tracking technology, seemingly impossible feats and the use of everyday devices. Jack Bauer lived an extraordinary day with sometimes super power technology. While it’s been fun to critique the feasibility of that technology, I’m inclined to keep watch the real technology innovations that come from our alumni and students every day.

Thanks for watching, everyone!


Interested in our take on previous episodes? Click below.
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1:00 - 3:00
3:00 - 7:00


Christine Halsey has BSEET and MSET degrees and currently teaches for the College of Engineering & Information Sciences at DeVry University, specializing in C++, LabView, digital systems, PLCs, RF communications, microprocessors and other electronics courses. She loves technology and helping people make hardware and software work together.

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DeVry University is not affiliated in any way with Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation or the show “24: Live Another Day".