nCipher Security Blog

What entertainment gets right and wrong about security

Cindy Provin | SVP Entrust Datacard and General Manager, nCipher Security More About This Author >

The 2019-2020 TV season has begun. And fans of the most hotly anticipated tech-related programs are gearing up to enjoy new episodes.

As you may already know, USA Network’s Mr. Robot premieres Oct. 6. And HBO’s Silicon Valley begins its sixth and final season Oct. 27.

Such tech-focused shows have recently captured our imaginations with what technology can do and where it might be going. Movies have, too.

The big picture

Tech plays a starring role even in movies in which IT is not the focus, such as Ocean’s 8, with an all-star cast featuring Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna, and The Hunger Games trilogy with Jennifer Lawrence.

answering the need

People at tech conferences still regularly reference the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. Other Hollywood actors, like Harrison Ford, Robert Redford and Will Smith, starred in the respective tech movies Firewall, Sneakers and I, Robot several years ago.

Back in 1983, a young Matthew Broderick played a high school student who unwittingly accesses a NORAD computer and nearly launches World War III. That movie, War Games, is a family favorite. For many of us, it’s one of the earliest tech movies we can remember.

But, in fact, IT has been a popular theme in Hollywood for even longer than that. Back in 1969, Kurt Russell starred in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

This movie tells the story of a young man who gets shocked while fixing a computer during an electrical storm. His brain fuses with that of the computer, and he becomes a genius.

What a difference 50 years makes.

Virtual reality

The entertainment industry has gotten much better at getting us to suspend our disbelief when it comes to tech tales.

PC Mag notes that the show Mr. Robot “goes out of its way to use real-life hacking tools like Kali Linux and a lot of legit command prompt action.”

Even the goofy show Silicon Valley has lots of real-life references. For example, one episode has Pied Piper presenting at the real-life event TechCrunch Disrupt. The Weissman Score compression metric that the makers of HBO’s Silicon Valley introduced to TV viewers has even made its way into the real world.

But not actual reality

While many shows and movies employ technology to tell their stories, it’s important to remember that these are tales, not fact. They’re fiction.

I mention this not to spoil the fun. I enjoy a lot of these shows and movies myself.

However, in TV and film, the heroes frequently manage to fix everything. That’s not how it works in the real world – particularly when we’re talking about cybersecurity.

Rather than the star of the show managing to fix everything, cybersecurity is a team effort. It requires the buy-in, collaboration and participation of a variety of stakeholders. That includes the CEO, CIO, CISO, CTO and other business leaders, managers and players through the organization and business ecosystem.

If there were an Academy Awards category for the best cybersecurity approach, it wouldn’t be a single actor or actress running onstage to collect the little gold man. Instead, it would be one of those situations in which a large group gathers at the podium and gets played off before everybody has a chance to thank the Academy, their parents and their kids watching at home.

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