Here’s looking at you, hacker: A rolling blog of Siemplify SOC Movie Madness Bracket Challenge

DOWN TO TWO

It is almost fitting that the championship comes down to these two: a pair of Hollywood masterpieces that were well ahead of their time.

“WarGames” for its ability to portray realistic hacking at a time when most people didn’t even own a computer and have its characters use techniques like social engineering and war dialing, which are still frequently employed by hackers today. It also did another really important thing: made nerds cool and began the important lesson for parents around the world to teach their kids to marry the coder, not the quarterback or the cheerleader. (Just kidding, don’t beat me up quarterbacks.)

Then we have “The Matrix” (which was really ahead of its time if all of our suspicions that we’re living in a simulation are confirmed) but also in terms of moviemaking and its influence on the sci-fi genre in general.

But here is where this matchup gets a bit complicated and, dare we say, controversial (and why I believe it is going to be so competitive.) There seem to be two distinct camps when it comes to what constitutes a “hacker” movie. On one side are the purists, who I don’t want to speak for, but will likely side with the classic definition of the word (people infiltrating computer systems as we know them to be) and lean “WarGames.”

The other camp has more, shall we say, flexibility and rates “The Matrix” as absolutely a hacker movie (even though its successor, “The Matrix: Reloaded,” probably has more legitimate hacking scenes like when Trinity uses Nmap version 2.54BETA25 to find a vulnerable SSH server). Plus, none of “The Matrix” franchise deals with a typical security breach scenario SecOps pros may encounter on a typical day but something more abstract — hacking into our reality itself. Having said that, there are plenty of people who not only think it’s the best hacker movie of all time, but the best movie of all time because it so brilliantly and beautifully tackles such deep existential questions. Which begs the question: Does the best movie of all time (if it involves hacking) have to be the best hacker movie of all time? OK, now I’m turning my brain into a pretzel like when I watch “The Matrix.”

First things first: best hacker movie of all time. Let’s let the voters decide, and we’ll be back here next week to interpret the (hopefully close) results, crown the champion and bestow prizes and praise on the person whose bracket most closely matched the final results.

 


THE FINAL FOUR IS SET

Four hacker movies remain, and we are getting closer by the day to crowning a champion cyber film. If I leave a legacy in this life, let it be that I conceived a competition that determined, once and fall, which hacker flick is the best of all time.

The haters will say there is still a debate. To which I say, here is a 16-team bracket, in which every man, woman and child on Earth with working internet had a chance to vote. There is no debate.

The other part of this challenge is the contest part. Before voting opened this week, we gave folks a chance to fill out their brackets for a chance to win big $$$ prizes if their predictions ended up matching up with how the votes went.

There was a strategy component to that process. Most entrants likely selected their favorite movies. And that’s fine and dandy. Except your preference may not be the people’s preference — and that’s what matters in a contest like this. So not only do you need to pick winners, you also need to handicap how your competitors are likely to vote. Something about game theory.

We have no idea if the “predictive analysis” crowd is at the top of the standings, or just some players who got lucky, or a mixture of both, but we have one lone leader out of 260 brackets — and a bunch of entrants tied for second and third place.

Without further ado, let’s get to the Final Four matchups:

 

“War Games” versus “Sneakers”

Two absolute pure hacker classics square off in the most-anticipated hacker matchup since Charlie Miller & Chris Valasek took on a Jeep with a reporter inside. Very little separating these too. Can’t wait to monitor the voting.

 

“Enemy of the State” versus “The Matrix”

“The Matrix” knocks off pre-tournament favorite “Hackers” to move on to face the spy thriller “Enemy of the State.” The sci-fi action film clearly has a loyal fan base (even though some viewers still don’t understand what the heck happened in it) but can it keep going in this tournament?

 

See you for the finals!

 


AND THEN THERE WERE EIGHT

We had to say goodbye to a few good ones. Gotta say, the surprise beatdown was “Hackers” over “Blackhat.” The latter was panned by critics, but apparently beloved for its hacking realism. Anyway, we cried through some tissues for the losers last night, but alas, it’s time to move on with life. To the Elite Eight we go!

War Games versus Office Space
Can the longshot “Office Space” continue its Cinderella run? It’s got hearty competition against one of our pre-tournament favorites.

Sneakers versus Snowden
The battle of the esses provides an interesting contrast: One movie involves a government contractor going rogue; the other involves the U.S. National Security Agency asking a team of security specialists to break the law.

Enemy of the State versus Live Free or Die Hard
Sandra Bullock (“The Net”) goes home, but Bruce Willis marches on? Life can be cruel sometimes. Still, we have a good matchup here with two thrillers going head to head. Bonus, a young Will Smith!

The Matrix versus Hackers
There are plenty of “Matrix” devotees out there, but “Hackers” has that eponymous advantage. Tough, tough call. See you tomorrow, when we’ll have a Final Four!

 


VOTING IS OPEN!

 

What a turnout! 260+ brackets are in. Now the fun starts. Today we begin the road to the cyber movie Final Four, which will result in the declaration of the greatest hacker film of all time. And how the bracket plays out is entirely up to you.

If we can get as many votes as we have entries, well, I’m no math guy, but that sounds like a predictive sample size where we can be confident with the final result.

For the people who entered: Starting with 16 “teams” (read: hacker flicks) may seem much more manageable to predict than a traditional 64-team March Madness bracket that many of us are familiar with, make no mistake: The odds still aren’t on your side, and the competition will be fierce. According to our friends at Reddit, there are 256 possible Final 4 combinations, all things being equal.

However, we know that’s not the case, as not every matchup is likely to be a coin flip in the eyes of, you, the voters. There are favorites and there are longshots and there are some in between, and if Vegas was making odds, I would suspect certain films would be expected to attract more votes than others.

Considering this, and the fact that I wouldn’t want to sway the voting, I’ll discuss the matchups each day in as objective and neutral a way possible.

Today I’ll start by analyzing a couple of interesting opening-round matchups.


“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” versus “Office Space”

“Office Space,” our lone true comedy in the bracket (sorry, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” didn’t make the cut, although Matthew Broderick joins us for “War Games”) faces off against a 2011 psychological crime thriller that netted an Oscar for Best Film Editing. One is a cult classic in which the characters invent a hacking plan to embezzle the company they detest versus a blockbuster that grossed $230 million in box office during its theatrical run. This will be an interesting matchup to track.

“Sneakers” versus “Tron”

Will be a shame to see one of these go. The late River Phoenix heads a strong cast in “Sneakers,” which involves a pen test team who is approached by the U.S. government for a job that falls outside legal bounds. It goes head to head with the original “Tron” (there was a remake of this classic in 2010), a Disney production lauded for its visual effects, which follows the story of a genius video game maker transported into the digital world and forced to participate in gladiatorial games.

“Live Free or Die Hard” verus “Firewall”

The fourth installment in the famed “Die Hard” series goes full hacking plot (although, if you remember, the original co-starred a hacker who helps Hans Gruber’s crew pull off the Nakatomi Tower heist). Bruce Willis’ flick squares up against Harrison Ford in “Firewall,” who portrays a bank cybersecurity expert whose family is kidnapped. Sounds about right.

“Hackers” versus “Black Hat”

Arguably the best first-round matchup. Nowadays, naming a movie “Hackers” would be like titling a bank heist film “Bank Robbers,” but back  in 1995, Angela Jolie and the gang were part of a new-age underground scene. (Fun fact: The school scenes in “Hackers” were filmed in Stuyvesant High School, which is near my apartment!) It faces off against “Blackhat” (not the conference), in which Chris Hemsworth plays possibly the most strapping hacker of all time. He dismantles a nuclear reactor in China and causes a meltdown in a Stuxnet-style attack. The film was lauded for its realism. This is a heck of a matchup, and whoever goes home, it will be a loss for the tournament.

 


Let the March (Movie) Madness Begin!

Do you love films of the “cyber” genre? Are your basketball brackets already busted and looking for something new? Do you want the chance to win $2,000 in prizes?

Whatever your reason for arriving here, congratulations: You are about to act as judge and jury on the world’s most critical debate: the greatest hacker movie of all time. 

Why is this such an important discussion to have? Two reasons:

1) Hacking isn’t going away. In fact, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds. The average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. And cybercrime is expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by the middle of the decade.

2)  Despite cyberattacks becoming a nightly segment on the news, lots of Hollywood hacking scenes, while captivating and elaborate, are completely implausible. To the knowledgeable tech geek, most sequences invoke incorrect terminology or describe technically unrealistic scenarios. Some are cringeworthy and laughable. (“They’ve already burned through the NCIS public firewall!”

In recent years, TV shows like “Mr. Robot” have helped to redeem the genre, but let’s be real, Hollywood has to do its Hollywood thing. Tinseltown’s priority is entertaining the audience, often at the expense of reality. No matter what you’re an expert in or how many consultants were on set, you’re always going to take issue with how your profession or hobby is depicted in movies

Having said, er written, all of this, if we’re going to have hacking (and cybersecurity) in film, we might as well declare a GOAT. Just turn on SportsCenter: I guarantee they are deliberating Jordan versus Lebron. Endlessly.

To decide on the best, we’ll do it bracket style. Might as well, considering we’re in the middle of March Madness and Oscar season. Seems like the perfect time.

To get to this point – 16 finalists in a do-or-die, survive-and-advance grudge match until we have a hero of the hoodie – we had to subtract some certainly worthy contenders and include some questionable ones as well. 

Let’s be honest, even the cult classics have holes, so we had to make some tough calls. And we stand by them. We think this Sweet 16 list is a representative one and includes a mix of the OGs and the newbies. Hacking is not intrinsic to all the contenders’ plots, but it always plays a prominent role. We tried hard to include movies whose storylines also included cyber defense – because that’s our audience – but no guarantees.

So, how is all of this going to work? 

  • First, fill out your bracket: Before the voting opens, you can project how you think the bracket will play out. How you make your predictions is up to you. Maybe you’ve seen ’em all and have a pretty good handle on how the public will vote. Maybe you’re a Rotten Tomatoes disciple. Maybe you’ve got a coin and a knack for flipping. Either way, make sure you fill out each round.
  • Then (next week), come back to vote: Even if your bracket goes bust, we still want you to vote because that’s how winners will be determined! Once everyone’s bracket predictions are in place, there will be four rounds of voting (Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, Championship). A live leaderboard will track the standings once the voting period begins. The Top 3 most accurate brackets, which will accrue the most points, will win prizes. 
  • Read analysis (here!): Our rolling blog will keep an eye on each day’s matchups, breaking down the competitors and sharing some fun facts and unique perspectives throughout  the tournament. 
  • Talk trash (<– next door): Don’t forget to join our live chat where you can share favorite lines or scenes from the movies, discuss plotlines, talk smack to your competitors about their taste in cinema or simply brag about your bracket.

I’ll be back every day next week to break down the movies and voting matchups.(Netflix binge starts now). Any questions, shoot me an email (dkaplan@siemplify.co). With that, let the games begin!