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The Film Industry and IT Security

Barbara N. Wabwire, CISA, MBA, BIT, Business IT Consultant
| Posted at 2:59 PM by ISACA News | Category: Security | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (2)

Barbara WabwireFor those in the ISACA community who are fans of popular culture, you might have noticed in recent years that, in many cases, film and TV stars are beginning to look more like you and I, and less like the muscle men of our youths.

Movie and TV producers have long been interested in technology – from the times of single action heroes like the one-man army of John Rambo in “First Blood” and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg assassin in “Terminator,” the film industry has been at it. But as the work performed by IT security practitioners has become more central not only to all enterprises but to society as a whole, it has been interesting to see how that realization is filtering into the big (and small) screens.

Now having more fully embraced technology-savvy heroes, the film industry portrays IT security in action-packed, fast-paced, intense scenes where IT systems are breached by a few clicks, in a matter of seconds. The nerdy programmer super-heroes are largely depicted as introvert loners, and family members of IT security characters are prone to being kidnapped, taken hostage and other forms of trauma associated with the job.

In recent times, the internet, smartphones and mobile computing technology have taken center stage in movies, mirroring their rising prominence in our daily lives. The plot in many movies no longer leads to traditional showdowns in physical locations and instead are more likely to traverse multiple virtual locations, by use of drones and closed circuit television.

In the hit TV series “24,” Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran create a character of the indomitable Jack Bauer, who relies heavily on intel from the IT security team. The team, normally just one or two very intelligent people, support all counterterrorism operations, within a command operations center with multi-screens. The protagonists target each other’s operations center as part of the main strategic battle plan. Backup plans and fallback positions become the lifeline of the movies; you have to bring all these down to win – this is the new fictional reality.

Watching the Hatton Garden TV drama, a real-life story of how the Hatton Garden (underground) Safe Deposit Company is burgled by four elderly experienced thieves. As viewers, we worry if the aging thieves will survive hunger, severe incontinence, and worse still, heart attacks. And we must wonder what really happens to the IT security personnel in such a plot during such long weekends especially over the Easter weekend.

The tension and level of precision required of IT security professionals will vary from one sector to another. IT security personnel in a bank may stress over financial loss schemes orchestrated by internal and external players, while in a law firm, the concerns might center on a data leak that could compromise the privacy and confidentiality of the clients and violate lawyer-client confidentiality, paving the way to lawsuits, reputational risk and unfathomable damage. It amounts to a matter of trust, built painfully over a long period of time, that can be brought down in such a short time. And the business world is not so forgiving (see the Panama Papers expose).

The good news is that the daily routine of a “normal” IT security practitioner is relatively mundane by comparison and would not sell at the box office. Incidentally, how many IT security professionals would pay a premium ticket price to watch “us” do our job normally? The excitement and glamour injected into the roles by the script writers may be necessary to keep us glued to our seats, but taking some creative license has long been a hallmark of film and TV producers. That should not obscure the bigger picture here – the work that IT security professionals do for our enterprises can have heroic impact, as today’s consumers of cinema and television can increasingly attest.


Heros in Tech

Spot on! The hero is the tech person dedicated to the daily activities supporting and protecting those elements for a successfully functioning society.  Often it's not a "glam" job, yet technology touches every aspect of our daily lives. Kudos to the technologist!
Deborah045 at 8/20/2019 7:09 AM

Well said!

Barbara, your conclusion to this piece is poignant, insightful and very true! Thank you for this- it made for a good read.
Erina920 at 8/21/2019 1:55 AM
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