Props: Read out a Smartphone in a movie


Currently, a series project of a production company is being filmed in which hackers play a major role in several places. The production focuses on a realistic representation of hacker methods, which is why the production company has asked me several times in recent weeks for advice on how to depict certain scenes realistically.

Unfortunately I can’t tell too much here, because the project is not published yet. As soon as the series project has been published in Germany, I will update this article extensively and become more concrete.

This project was the first season of the series “You are Wanted” with Matthias Schweighöfer in the leading role and directing.


The script provided for the hacker to get access to a specific SMS on a specific smartphone of a recently deceased person in the series. Unfortunately, the scriptwriters’ suggestions could not be conveyed realistically within the given time of less than a minute, since the proposed procedure would mean at least several months, probably several years of work for a team of very good hackers.

I therefore recommended that the production rewrite the script so that the hacker gets physical hardware access to the device. This suggestion was followed and the script was rewritten accordingly.

Simply connecting the smartphone to a laptop was not graphic enough for the production, another step had to be told. So I suggested that a small device would be conceivable that would read the smartphone. The protagonist would then have to physically connect the smartphone to this device in order to read it. I was inspired to this idea by different devices I had seen at hacker conferences.


I got the order to develop such a device as a prop at 11:37 am. Due to the tight time schedule (the scene should be shot at 15:00 on the same day!) it was necessary to deliver the device until 14:30. So there was less than three hours for purchase, construction and delivery.

I bought a small blinker circuit, an empty case, a USB socket, a switch, a 9V clip, two 9V blocks and a few meters of cable from a big electronics dealer, which I avoid because of its prices.

I assembled the board as fast as I could – luckily the board worked right away and didn’t need any debugging. Then I drilled holes in the case and mounted the components with hot glue – everything else would have taken too long.

The cable with the switch at the end serves as a remote control. Some production assistant can hide with the switch in an area of the set that won’t be in the picture and make the LEDs blink briefly at exactly the right moment.

Translated with


The device was delivered at 14:40 – 10min later than ordered. This delay did not pose a problem as the shooting schedule for the day had already got mixed up and the scene was to be shot much later. The director and the props were satisfied with the equipment.

The order was placed by the company For this I would like to thank you very much.