Entertainment Makes Encryption Look Easy

I was recently asked by a colleague if I had seen the new Jason Bourne action movie. He specifically wanted to get my thoughts on the cyber espionage element of the movie. I answered not yet, and was not sure if I was, however, that angle got me thinking. So even though I haven’t actually seen this movie, I can almost guarantee from my experience that this will be accurate.

EntertianmentEncryptionsqIn $MOVIE_NAME, we see $PROTAGONIST easily defeat lots of security technologies, including encryption. This is in the best tradition of Hollywood making things more interesting and exciting than they really are at the expense of realism. In this movie, we see that cracking encryption is no more difficult than typing $SOME_COMMAND. In reality, however, encryption provides an extremely high level of data protection.

If $TARGET_NAME had been using data-centric security to encrypt their sensitive information instead of some sadly inferior technology, a realistic depiction of $PROTAGONIST cracking the encryption would show them waiting for more than a couple of minutes. Way more. We would see the continents collide from tectonic drift. We would see the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies collide. We would see the sun become a red giant and incinerate the Earth (the same technology that gives $PROTAGONIST such a long life would also save him from this). And $PROTAGONIST would still be waiting for the encryption provided by data-centric security to be cracked.

Encryption is not the sort of thing that anyone can bypass by typing a few characters on a keyboard. It is the sort of thing that takes implausible amounts of resources to actually carry out. And it is definitely not the sort of thing that hackers are going to crack any time soon. Unfortunately, the inaccurate depiction of the security provided by encryption in movies and TV shows seems to be accepted by many people. This is an example of the “CSI effect,” in which inaccurate popular depictions of technology become widely believed.

 

About the Author
Luther Martin, HPE Distinguished Technologist, is a frequent contributor to articles and blogs. Recent articles include Relax! Good encryption practices won’t affect app performance in TechBeacon Magazine, Learning how to encrypt healthcare information on the HPE Security Community Blog, and Business and Consumer Use of Encryption Are Different on the Voltage.com blog.

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