I live in a city whose motto is “Culver City, The Heart of Screenland.” “Gone with the Wind,” “Citizen Kane” and “Raging Bull” were filmed here. It’s estimated that 1 in 8 residents of Culver City work in the entertainment business. Culver City is also home to one of the largest computer security research centers in the world. That’s where I work. What I know of about the movie industry I learned from the big screen and in the papers. There really hasn’t been any cross-pollination, any intermingling between the two industries. Till now.
In March, Anthony E. Zuiker, the man behind the “CSI” franchise, announced that he was creating a motion picture called, “Cybergeddon.” He called “Cybergeddon” an “evolution in the crime genre”. And he announced that he would be partnering with Norton to leverage our “technical credibility and security insights.”
Speaking to a group of Symantec employees recently about the threat landscape, I was asked about the movie and our role in it. The guy didn’t mince words. He said; “Are we gonna stop them from screwing things up?” I knew what he meant.
My wife refuses to watch a movie with me if it involves computer hacking. She can’t stand the groans I give off watching one ridiculous thing after another happen on the screen. It’s one thing to create a heightened sense of reality, but I’ve seen things done that don’t even classify as science fiction. The average person has little enough sense of what is really possible today with computer hacking, but reality is sometimes beyond belief. You don’t need to make things up, and you certainly don’t have to be ridiculous about it. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I have one word for you: “Swordfish.”
So, I sheepishly answer the question: “I’m the guy that’s gonna stop them from screwing it up.” That wasn’t completely true. There is a whole team of Norton folks helping on this, but I am playing a part. I knew I had a big responsibility here.
I was given the chance to meet with the filmmakers and give them an inside look at what real cybercriminals are up to today. They toured the Symantec Security Operations Center, or “SOC,” and our research center in Culver City. It was a lot to absorb, but I was amazed at how quickly they picked things up. And they had clearly done their homework before they even walked in the door to talk to us. I had a chance to review drafts of the script to ensure accuracy. In each subsequent draft I watched the characters grow on the page, become more and more like the people I work with; they just happen to be in a reality that’s a little more heightened and exciting than my day-to-day job.
The movie is not a tutorial on hacking. It’s not a documentary. It’s entertainment. It moves fast and it’s a lot of fun. There are good guys and bad guys, chases and shootouts; all the action you expect in a Hollywood movie. But it’s going to have lessons to teach for those who won’t sit through a lecture on security best practices. And it’s not going to make me groan. Indeed, I’ll be cheering. I can’t wait to see it on Yahoo!.
In fact, I’ll be watching it with my wife.