Saturday, February 23, 2013

Crazy Eddie at the Movies 4--the science fiction in Skyfall becomes science fact

In the previous installment of Crazy Eddie at the Movies, I promised more on the latest Bond flick.
Last night, my wife and I watched "Skyfall," an experience that deserves a post of its own.
I have lots to say about the movie, but tonight I'll stick with what I've said before about James Bond being science fiction.
[T]he James Bond movies, even more so than the books, qualify, as they are really science fiction films set 20 minutes into the future.  Better yet, the films both celebrate the latest technology and explore in a very escapist fashion a current technological, scientific, or even environmental issue that is a source of societal anxiety.
How do the films celebrate the latest technology?  Surprisingly, the answer is "sparingly."  Yes, there is a lot of high-tech glitz in the background when Bond is working in Shanghai and Q has his moments as he plays around with the network at MI6 and gives 007 a Walther PPK with palmprint identification, which saves Bond's life later on, but the movie actually makes a point of highlighting the virtues of lower technology.  Q even hangs a lampshade on it by saying “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that any more.”

On the other hand, the technological anxiety is explored in spades.  In this case, it's the use of computers as devices for "counter-intelligence, terrorism, revenge, and extortion," all of which play a part in "Skyfall."  Mostly, this takes the form of outright technological theft (the movie begins with a chase after someone who just stole a hard drive), hacking, and psychological warfare including via social media (YouTube makes an uncredited appearance).  All of this makes a great splash, but in the end the lower tech wins the day.

That's all Hollywood.  In the real world, computer hacking can be used just as much for straight intelligence as for the purposes above and by state actors as well as the non-state-affiliated villains who populate the world of James Bond.  Follow over the fold for videos depicting the latest example of how this works, as China has been accused of espionage by spearphishing and social engineering this week.

First, here's PBS News Hour's account, "Chinese Military Unit Hacked Hundreds of Computer Systems."

An intelligence report suggests that a secretive military unit has been hacking the computer systems of American corporations and organizations since 2006. President Obama highlighted the need for greater cyber security in his recent State of the Union address. Judy Woodruff reports.
I'm amused by the Chinese official calling hacking "anonymous."  The next time he says that, he should make sure that he capitalizes it--Hacking is Anonymous--and says to "expect us."  Too bad it won't happen; it doesn't look like he has a sense of humor.

ABC News gave a more breathless account, hyperventilating about all the high-profile targets and the potentional threat in Report: Chinese Hacking US Banks, Power Grid.

Yes, a defense contractor and the power grid--be afraid, be very afraid!

CNN adds to the story with more details about how the PLA unit went about their cyber-spying in How the reported Chinese hackers worked.

CNN's Brian Todd reports on the allegations of Chinese hackers targeting U.S. companies and how they might have worked.
CNN adds more in terms of improving security online in Attacking cybersecurity threats.

CNN talks to Rod Beckstrom about global cybersecurity threats.
Now, for one more case of life imitating art (or art imitating life, I really can't tell any more).  Guess where Javier Bardem's Mr. Silver based his cyber-espionage operation?  That's right, China.

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