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ISA Cybersecurity Movie Awards

Fri, 22 Feb 2019

Inspired by the recent Academy Awards, we at ISA have elected to grant three Hollywood tech-movie merits of our own. Instead of the Oscars, we’re calling ours the “Kevins” after our illustrious President and CEO, Kevin Dawson (who shares the Oscar statue's haircut – and who has a wonderful sense of humour). What follows are our runners-up and prestigious award winners in each cybersecurity category. While the ideal movie-watching Canadian winter weather seems to be dragging on, here are our picks for a now-award-winning (thanks to ISA) cybersecurity movie marathon. Just remember, if you’re logging in to view online make sure you’re practicing good cybersecurity hygiene, using a unique and complex password, as well as logging on to a secure network to do so. Cybersecurity Movie Awards

And now, without further ado, and sadly lacking the Billy Crystal song and dance opening from years gone by, your ISA 2019 Cybersecurity Technology Kevin-award winners are . . .

CATEGORY: Scariest Cybersecurity Hacker Movie

Runner Up: Hackers (1995)

The runner-up, in the ISA category of scariest cybersecurity hacker movie, is Hackers. Hackers is awarded this distinction partly because its title is spot-on, but primarily because it is scary – scary how bad it is. The activity of cybersecurity hacking isn't action-movie-worthy fun to watch – fingers flying across keyboards and screens filled with code does not an adrenaline car chase make. The movie is filled with many techno-clichés and attempts at making criminal cybersecurity hackers cool. ISA does not believe criminal hackers are cool – they are the enemy of ISA and of cybersecurity. What this movie lacked most was a state-of-the-art Cybersecurity Intelligence and Operations Centre, designed to have unparalleled physical cybersecurity capabilities and a multi-tenant cloud offering powered by an industry leading SIEM technology with complete redundancy at the collection, management and data layers – like ISA offers its clients.

Winner: Office Space (1999)

Office Space gets ISA’s Kevin award for Scariest Cybersecurity Hacker Movie because it is about internal employees, Peter, Samir and Michael Bolton, taking advantage of network vulnerabilities to plant a virus in their company’s banking system. The virus is intended to embezzle a fraction of cents on each financial operation and transfer it into Peter's account. However, Michael commits a very-human mistake in the software, and they end up siphoning off over $300 thousand. Not only is the movie funny with "PC Load Letter" and jamming leading to an unfortunate demise for a company printer and Milton's love affair with a red Swingline stapler, but it also shows how a human error in a company can lead to a massive loss. While most company employees unleash a virus unintentionally, in the days of socially engineered cyberattacks and phishing schemes, human attack surface needs to be a top consideration when creating a company-wide cybersecurity solution and cybersecurity education program.  

CATEGORY: Best Cybersecurity Defence

Runner Up: Robocop (1987)

Robocop achieves the runner up placement in ISA’s Best Cybersecurity Defence because having a crime-fighting cyborg is just cool. This is an early exploration of human-machine connection which is at the root of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and while we don't have cyborgs walking around, biohackers, known as grinders are already experimenting with making themselves into cyborgs.[i] What is of more interest to ISA in Robocop is the "hot military product" defence robot, ED-209, featured at the beginning of the movie. After ED-209’s responsive communications fail, it repeatedly shoots an unarmed test subject. The designers and technicians are seen frantically trying to power-down the network. The CEO of the company that created ED says, “I’m sure it was only a glitch.”[ii] They needed a cybersecurity solutions provider, like ISA, to ensure that there was an immediate network shutdown available to disarm ED, so that glitch or not, no one would get shot. 

Winner: Minority Report (2002)

This Steven Spielberg film set in 2054, is about cops using three gifted people with precognitive abilities (Pre-Cogs) and an elite law enforcing squad (Precrime), to stop crimes before they happen. We're still a little while from that reality; however, algorithms that are as good as someone with ESP are under development. Some of the technology in this movie is already in existence, like the gesture-based "spatial operating system" Tom Cruise uses (think Xbox 360 Kinect). The film also has lots of self-driving cars and Internet of Things devices. The most prophetic tech in the film was the depiction of personalized advertising and product placement, a reality that now floods our browsers and feeds. What we, at ISA, valued about the movie is the Pre-Cog’s ability to see a potential crime before it happens. ISA endeavours to be Pre-Cog. This is what we strive for with our cybersecurity incident response solutions. Precognitive cybersecurity incident response strategies mean an organization's vulnerabilities are discovered and fortified before an attack occurs. Plus, just like Tom Cruise, the cybersecurity solutions providers at ISA do all their own stunts.  


ISA Cybersecurity Movie Awards

CATEGORY: Best Overall Cybersecurity Movie

Runner-Up: The Net (1995)

The Net gets runner up for Best Overall Cybersecurity Movie because Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Angela Bennett, a pizza-addicted cybersecurity specialist working from home with an awesome dual-monitor setup is relatable. The cybersecurity experts at ISA like how Bennett fixes the Wolfenstein game by extracting a virus so formidable that it can even defeat the definitive technique of hitting the Escape key. But, more than just virus-extraction, this movie is a reminder of the frightening potential of identity theft. The cornerstone of this plot is built around Bennett’s ability to order pizza online. The question the movie raises is if the ability to order pizza online is worth having all of our personal lives stored on computers that can be freely accessed, modified and even obliterated by hackers with the ability to overpower cybersecurity systems, breach a network and access a database? Of course, it is - because pizza is fantastic. That's why ISA is so passionate about protecting online data because, at ISA, we firmly believe in the ability to order food online without losing your identity.

Winner: Sneakers (1992)

And the Kevin award for Best Overall (and most eerily accurate) Cybersecurity Movie goes to the all-star, blockbuster movie Sneakers

Now, the cybersecurity experts at ISA must admit to some bias. It’s no coincidence that ISA was founded the same year that Sneakers premiered - 1992. The digital revolution was ramping up, and it was evident to everyone working in technology, and everyone at ISA, that information was going to be the hot commodity of the future. The movie’s dialogue rings especially true, presently, with so much talk of China-Canada-Huawei and the cybersecurity concerns surrounding the implementation of the 5G network.

Cosmo, played by actor Ben Kingsley declared to the idealistic Bishop, played by Robert Redford, “The world isn’t run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money, it’s run by little ones and zeroes, little bits of data. [. . .] There's a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it's not about who's got the most bullets. It's about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think... it's all about the information!”

The Sneakers cybersecurity hacking crew, headed by Bishop, is a team of security specialists in San Francisco undertaking penetration testing – seeing if organizations’ security is tough enough to handle their attack (the rationale being if they can’t break it, no one can). The crew, a hodgepodge of white-hat hacker-geniuses, includes a former CIA officer, an electronics technician who’s also a conspiracy theorist; a young, hot-shot hacking genius; and a phone phreak (a hacker who specializes in phone systems). The Sneakers’ crew had a specialist in every area, much like ISA employs and were able to rely on experience and knowledge to handle any cybersecurity situation that got thrown at them. And, just like ISA, the crew helped organizations establish air-tight security through creative approaches.

The movie shows the crew of cybersecurity hackers breaking into a bank to see if the cybersecurity and physical defences are impenetrable. If you hire ISA to test your cybersecurity measures, there is little chance of ISA's CEO Kevin Dawson sliding across your bank counter during a heist scenario like Redford's Bishop did in Sneakers (but if Kevin did, he'd do it with more grace). But, like Sneakers, the team at ISA will identify your organization's cybersecurity vulnerabilities because they are committed to saving the world, one cybersecurity solution at a time.

That’s why Sneakers wins the coveted Kevin for Best Overall Cybersecurity Tech Movie.

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