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Security Feature

August 05, 2016

Bourne to be Wild!

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

As content curator and writer on security matters for our Cloud Security Resource and Cyber Security Trend communities, I am not typically in the habit of giving movie reviews. However, there is always an exception. And, the release of the latest installment in the Bourne movie series, appropriately titled, Jason Bourne (see trailer here) is just such an exception.  Not only is it a first-class action flick, but it presents is a cornucopia of security technology  and raises some real food for thought on who is watching us, with what, for what reasons, and should we be concerned.

I saw it the movie opening night. I am likely to see it again since it is that good.  In addition, much to my surprise, based on my inbox the film seems to have resonated with security pros.  And, I thought I’d share one which piqued my interest along with some commentary of my own.

First a spoiler alert along with some context.  There will be an absolute minimum of plot discussed in this posting.  The objective is to not spoil your enjoyment of the movie.  Second, in the name of full disclosure, I am an unabashed fan of author Robert Ludlum’s work which introduced the world to Jason Bourne which has since been popularized on the big screen.  Ludlum and I attended Wesleyan University several years apart. He admitted the evil spy master in the Bourne Identity is based on Wesleyan’s beloved philosophy professor, Louis Mink with whom I had the pleasure of taking two courses. He was a world reknowned scholar, who while he recruited for the CIA during the Cold War was about as far from evil as anyone I have ever met.  But, I digress.

Now for that email and my observations... 

It came with remarks by The Santa Fe Group, CEO Catherine Allen (observations in italics).

“While Jason Bourne features long and improbable car chases, there were some interesting cyber security elements.  To put it succinctly, it is way more than “interesting”, it is actually quite frightening.
“The movie references the CIA investing in startups (of the social media company), which they have done and continue to fund security and data related businesses.
They have been for years and not so secretly in many cases. However, don’t look for a list.  This is spy stuff after all, but may be that will be next for WikiLeaks?
“The movie points out the privacy/national security tug of war... National security agencies want back doors to all devices, which opens up huge security, as well as privacy, concerns.  The movie was simplistic on these points, but at least did a stab at it.  Personally, I worry more about all the information Google (News - Alert) and Amazon and other social media sites have that might be used for more than commercial purposes and by foreign governments than I do what the NSA has.

I am not sure, given the plot of the movie that worrying more about commercial entities and foreign governments than the NSA is the lesson to be learned.  In fact, I came away feeling concerned about all forms of big brotherism but am a bit torn on this one.  I like the fact that we can keep track of bad actors of all types globally, but have real concerns about the same tools being used to build massive profiles on all Americans with challenges arising as to who get access.  Finding the balance as we all know from the fierce public policy debates since the Snowden revelations is a case of the devil being in the details.  The movie only exacerbates just how difficult this is and why public policy needs to keep up with the times.  

“The ability to track people and things via satellite and their devices through the Internet is both possible and scary, and the movie Jason Bourne highlighted that.  It did not include voice tracking, but could have.....and it also could have incorporated drones, but didn't. Also, using cameras in public areas to track people was featured.  The movie hints at the ability to hack public infrastructures by taking down the grid in Iceland....also a reality. 
All I can add on this one is a big DITTO!
“I actually liked this movie for its use of cyber technology and tracking mechanisms... which are far more interesting than fist fights and crazy car chase through Las Vegas.  It is a melding of what is already in use and soon to be in the fight between national security and privacy.”

 Again, I respectfully disagree. For those of us raised with the car chases in first Bullet and then The French Connection, it a major reason, along with the tech wizardry displayed as part of the movie itself and the amazing cinematic derring-do , why we go to movie houses and watch on really big screens. 

All of that said, what is on display in Jason Bourne  as noted previously should give all of us a bit of pause. 

The reasons are obvious.  What used to be the stuff of science fiction is now very real.  Who has it, when, where, why, how and whom they are using it on is problematic. 

Plus, there is clearly going to be a squeal.  Part of me can’t wait, and part of me like waiting for this coming season of the hit TV show Homeland knows I will watch parts with my hands over my eyes but peaking through the cracks.  Like nuclear fission and fusion, there is potential for great good in terms of protection and great evil when in the wrong hands.  Too bad with the outbreak of what appears to be a major global cyber Cold War, that seeing such things could not stay in the realm of being imaginary. 

This really is an instance of being Bourne to be Wild!  As the lyrics from the rock classic of the similar sounding name from Steppenwolf say:

Yeah, darlin'
Gonna make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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