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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

I notice from a post in the BBC Message Boards that, following a showing of the film The Net last night, someone is very concerned that her personal data may be accessed as easily as Sandra Bullock's character's was in the film.

My view:

    Everything in this film was thoroughly researched, and is accurately portrayed: by definition, every computer hacker has no friends whatsoever; their parents no longer recognise them; they have no social life, and order-in pizza every night. Acquaintances who might be able to provide independent identification of them are few in number and easily eradicated by the two employees of a dominant software development house. Female hackers all look like Sandra Bullock (the varied and well-balanced diet virtually guarantees this) and male hackers are all a cross between Captain America and Albert Schweitzer, playing Bach cantatas in the evenings (and being able to assume soprano, alto, tenor and/or bass roles individually or in combination as required).

    Similarly, all computer systems without exception are Internet connected, even to the extent of having office fire alarm systems connected to them (with the express purpose of permitting the convenience of a false alarm when necessary), and may be used by anyone, anywhere in the world. Every government agency and business is keen to allow anyone, even those not associated with the business, to have intimate access to all their data. Back-ups are never taken, so if data are altered on-line, there's no possibility of comparing with what had been stored last week or six months ago and logs of accesses and changes to sensitive data are never kept. Viruses affecting a Windows PC, are equally deadly on PowerPC hardware or an (IBM?) mainframe. "telnet" is a well-known graphical user interface for remote access; IP addresses with an octet set to 345 are as common outside Hollywood as inside. (And which company does own network 23Huh)

    In short: all far-fetched, stuff-and-nonsense, even seven or eight years after the film was first released.


What do you think? Is Microsoft Passport the fulfilment of the gatekeeper software in the film?
11 REPLIES
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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

Now then, members of the Jury, I draw your attention to Exhibit B: Spooks - the episode of the BBC TV series shown on BBC Three on 9 June 2003 and repeated on BBC One a week later - dealing with an attack on "the MI5 mainframe computer". What evidence does this programme provide of any background research or understanding?


    Firstly, we learn that if a firewall protecting a mainframe computer is attacked, your mains electrical power will fail, and you will need backup generators for emergency lighting. Related to this, it's revealed that organisations with mainframe computers use them to control their central heating, so during periods of exposure to attack, it may be necessary to turn off the heating...

    A further interesting facet of a mainframe-related attack is that even though the attacker may not get beyond the firewall, satellite communications systems may be disrupted, with the consequence that "Our people in Pakistan have vanished. Those hackers have wiped two of our agents off the map." And "operating systems were contaminated within seconds. Archive files were swiped at the rate of a dozen a second." All this from an attack characterised as being "groped. We weren't penetrated. MI5 has a website just like Marks and Spencer or the Natural History Museum. These hackers broke in via that website, they got nowhere near the inner sanctum." Mainframers, then, are a tough-minded bunch!

    The MI5 team bugs a school at which the attacker is thought to be working. This includes installing a street workers' cabin outside the school premises in order to view the images being relayed from the bugging devices. Turns out, though, the laptop computers in the cabin for some reason have a connection to the mainframe computer back at HQ, and hold full details of codes used to access it...

    We learn some interesting things about firewalls. Firstly, they adhere to the same type of semantics as the shields of the Star Ship Enterprise ("Shields are holding, Captain!") for we hear a techie-type calling out "Firewall's holding!". But on a more detailed level "they're like white blood cells in the body. They attack foreign codes" with the consequence that "maybe, if we introduce a decoy code, it'll counter-attack it so vigorously that it'll leave a hole somewhere else where we can slip through."

    So now we know!!!!

    Finally, I am pleased to be able to reveal the greatest secret of all: the command necessary to launch an attack on MI5's mainframe computer. Spooks can confirm the validity of this command as executed from an Apple computer (note, especially the spelling of "programme"):

    launch decoy access programme:MI5 mainframe>


I rest the case against Spooks: stuff and nonsense in the same mould as The Net.
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Whilst I agree BUT BUT!!

Hi,

Thanks for the two previous contributors to this thread, I'd like to say that whilst films & TV programmes like this do contain huge amounts of utter rubbish about technology and computers,etc.

Some real ideas & threats to our global IT systems and including those of very large trans-national corporations (and the likes of large companies such as the Tesco's & Asda's of this world) do actually exsist even if these are still in the realms of theory (just because these threats are still theoretical it doesnt mean they couldn't become reality??makes you think.

The concept of a cyber attack on key national infra-structure such as power supply or pumping sations, major significant telecoms systems is'nt as stupid as it sounds (its NOT impossible at all), government systems etc I personally believe the threat is greater than most computer users realise or want to really think about.

And no I'm not being paranoid here I beleieve its only a matter of time before someone achieves the equivalent of the effects of a bomb going off against remote key systems. If you think its sounds far feached then think again the technolgy already exsists and Yes! the Russians where the first to develop it during the cold war period.

Its a technology that uses a massive electromagnetic pulse that is so powerful that it can total destroy remote systems and no there is no known defense to this kind of technology as far as I know. This is a technology based on the phenomena of the electromagetic pulse of the kind released in major nuclear weapons but without the nuclear elements involved. The pulses generated are so great that they knock out power supplies & computer systems from hundreds of miles away, scarry or what. So forget WMD, certainly makes you think.
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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

Best defense against the electromagnetic pulse would seem to be an off-site backup and disater recovery policy. Which in fairness I expect most places have, if not then they should. Also as far as firewall hacking goes you'd think they'd have more than wone hardware firewall in place between the external site and the internal mainframe/database. Also hacking should be made considerably more difficult by using some half decent security measures. I doubt most big companies have their Super User or root passwords set to welcome/password/etc. and if they do they're just asking for problems. Of course mistakes will be made and a dedicated hacker will probably find a way in if there is one. The best security against hackers is to not have extrnal access to the computer systems!! But this seems somewhat unrealistic in this day and age where everything seems to want to be online.

However I would imagine if they did a security attack and made it realistic they'd have viewers turning off in their hundreds as it'd probably be rather dull. Which wouldn't exactly make for box office material either. You could probably pick flaws with most movies and a good number of TV shows if ya wanted to.
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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

in that case, they should have used the electromagnetic pulse compensator,. Then the problem is solved :lol:

then they could sent the MCP from Tron to deal with the hackers

Darren
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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

Quote
in that case, they should have used the electromagnetic pulse compensator. Then the problem is solved :lol:

then they could sent the MCP from Tron to deal with the hackers


Darren / BookOfShadows: I see you're cunningly drawing me out of my depth on this, for I have to confess I've never seen the film Tron, incredible as that might sound, and the term MCP isn't ringing any bells for me. (A quick google has revealed why :lol: )

I do like your suggestion of an Electomagnetic Pulse Compensator, which in real life would be something like a metal box, but in the film world would be some weird and wonderful device, deliberately vague, but of magical properties, and rustled up out of nothing by the script writers. Dr Who's pen, Batman's utility belt, Thunderbird 2's pods -- examples of this sort of thing are endless. I think Star Trek has to take the prize for this type of script-writer's ploy, though: they spend the vast majority of an episode building up the enemy to be invincible; the Enterprise, or whichever spaceship, and all its crew are surely doomed. And then, five minutes before the end, and pretty much out of the blue, the crew deploy their "mumbo-jumbo" device, or the baddies make some incredible blunder, or simply decide they don't want to be nasty today, and all is suddenly put to rights. A complete insult to the audience, week after week!

****

Your username is intriguing, and I wonder if it is itself derived from the world of science fiction entertainment? "Shadows" conjours up notions of Babylon 5 (another series I found, ultimately, to be disappointing, not living up to what had built up very promisingly, but resolved far too quickly and easily) in which, of course, there was a Book of G'Quon which itself told of the Shadows. Or for "Book Of" should I be thinking more of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, perhaps with connotations of Stargate?
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Re: Whilst I agree BUT BUT!!

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... attack on key national infra-structure such as power supply or pumping sations...

...

Its a technology that uses a massive electromagnetic pulse that is so powerful that it can total destroy remote systems ...


Interesting to note there have been episodes of Spooks which have dealt with both of these (I've been doing some catching-up!). The first one, an episode in the first series, was a purely conventional attack on a power station (a nuclear power station, if I recall correctly), and I think there was a recent episode which may have been similar (sorry!, I didn't pay much attention to it, so I don't really know what was going on; it was the episode about renegade soldiers). And there was another recent episode which featured an EMP weapon, but this episode (wisely) avoided the EMP technology itself, being instead about stealing the plans, and thereby side-stepping the possibility of script-writers' blunders. Although, Spooks being Spooks, there were, of course, plenty anyway...
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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

I had got my inspiration from Startrek, has they have gadgets fr everything Smiley

although spooks, The net and the other shows mentioned, have no clue about technology i find myself really enjoying them Smiley if none of you have you should take a look at teh film called Antitrust Smiley -

Darren

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BTW my username is nowhere near as clever as you suggestions, its the name of the spell book in Charmed
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Nice Idea but pure fanatsy I'm affraid

Hi,

Nice Idea but pure fanatsy I'm affraid as the reality of ElectroMagnetic pulse's capability to completely destroy remote systems & key national infra-structure is well known about by both the UK,USA & Russian governments (and I dare say a few other governments besides now!). Theres no such thing as EMP compensator, thats like saying you know how & where to stop lighting, Umm I dont think so!! but nice idea I wish though.

Regards Ivan
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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

but i do know how to stop lightening Smiley

Darren
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The Net (as in the film starring Sandra Bullock)

Depends what is meant by "stop" it, surely?

If "stop" means "prevent" it from happening, then I think there's little that can be done to prevent lightning (or electo-magnetic pulses).

However, if it means "protect" against the adverse effects, then I think a lot can be done.

The issue is whether the protective measures may themselves render the device useless for its intended purpose. Totally enclosing a radar system in a metal box may well protect it against electro-magnetic pulses, but it will also make it completely ineffective as a radar system.
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No Known way to stop or prevent EMP

Hi,

I meant that for key infra-structure, major electrical supply to the vast majority of a whole country, any or all computer systems (no matter how well backed up they are!!) used bye major corporations (you can forget relocation to other sites too) EMP on this scale & power is claimed to be so massively powerful that nothing can stop, or prevent its effects.

**Darren I hope you never get hit bye lightening, its not a pretty sight!! :-(

Ivan