Hackers go to Movies Hacking technology, and hacks themselves, have been a part of Hollywood for ages. Movies like Superman III, War Games, and even Mission Impossible have highlighted the shortcomings in information technology and security that stretch the limits of reality and imagination. My favorite hacker is from Star Wars. R2D2 himself is the ultimate hacker. In Episode IV (the original Star Wars movie), R2D2 is a droid that has allegiance to the Rebels, has Imperial access codes, and hacks the Death Star to show detailed blue prints on how to turn off the tractor beam and run privileged commands to shut down the trash compactors. As far as Imperial security goes, R2D2 owns the Death Star IT systems in a few minutes and no one is aware of his intentions. Unfortunately, information technology security in movies has traditionally been smoke and mirrors and leaves a lot more questions than reality.

How Old Sci-Fi Compares to Today’s Reality

For the new movie documenting Snowden, the facts on his privileged hacks are well documented. Similar movies like the Falcon and the Snowman parallel the espionage techniques but Snowden’s exfiltration of data used relatively modern techniques like thumb drives and privileged accounts verses cameras and microfilm. The intent is the same however – to copy sensitive documents and move them past the physical perimeter of the building. With modern electronics, copying large quantities of data is faster using removable media than a camera one page at a time. It is therefore safe to assume that without the proper security controls to the data, identifying secure data to access, watching when files have been touched, and even when sensitive files are in transit (even by a system administrator like Snowden) a breach like this could occur. It is not to say the NSA systems where void of security controls, but they were inadequate to identify even a trusted insider moving data and using other user’s accounts for inappropriate access. The Snowden could potentially could be a true eye opening documentary and have similar effects on information and security technology that BlackFish had on the amusement park industry and animal activists. Snowden’s activity represents one of the largest security breaches of classified information in United States history. Regardless of whether he is a hero or criminal, the techniques he used to hack the government are very real. The movie attempts to portray them factually and people should take note of the potential weaknesses he exploited. It could happen to their businesses too. How secure are your privileged accounts? If you are interested in benchmarking your privileged access management practices against your peers, download the results of our new Privilege Benchmarking Study today.