For those who may remember Catch Me If You Can, the movie is based on the story of a young man, a clever forger, who becomes a lawyer, a doctor and a pilot — all while still in high school avoiding the FBI by continuously staying one step ahead. For those who don’t know the story, watch this preview:
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale, who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor — all with no degrees or formal training of any kind. He’s relentlessly pursued throughout the movie by Tom Hanks who portrays Carl Hanratty, an FBI bank fraud agent, who begins tracking Frank. Carl and Frank meet at a hotel, where Frank convinces Carl his name is Barry Allen of the Secret Service. Frank then leaves and minutes later, Carl angrily realizes his mistake as Abagnale flies into the wind. The story unfolds from there as the chase continues till the very end where Abagnale is sentenced to work at the FBIs check fraud department and continues to do so until the end of his sentence, ultimately becoming a major asset to the FBI — much the same way that experienced hackers do for major enterprise corporations (see my blog Google and the Security Princess for just one example of such a person). The movie’s credits roll at the end revealing (at the time) that Frank has been happily married for 26 years, has three sons, lives in the Midwest, is still good friends with Carl (as they did bond in friendship), catching some of the world’s most elusive money forgers and earning millions of dollars each year because of his work creating unforgettable checks.
Last week, I attended a Cyber Security Summit “The Unassailable Enterprise” hosted by Raytheon in Reston, Virginia, where the first day’s keynote speaker was one Frank Abagnale — yes THE Frank Abagnale. When I saw the program that was emailed to me it struck a chord as this was one of my favorite chase movies. I had to see the man who was in essence one of the youngest and most elusive criminals of all time. Frank is now of course much older and his experiences are without measure as a once innovative young criminal who had the FBI on the run was the keynote speaker who filled the room to maximum capacity. I was one of the standing room attendees. His knowledge of forgery and identity theft are likely matched by very few and of course, as detailed above, he has had many years of experience and his passion shows through immensely. I believe the whole room was hanging on his every word while in the back of their minds watching the movie about his early life. It certainly was running in my head.
As this was a cybersecurity conference, his discussion points on the subject were straightforward as well as hard hitting, in short telling us that there exist so many holes in our cyber defenses that the major concerns over such things as major city power grid shutdowns, water supply contamination and more may just be more ominous than we tend to believe. Another discussion point of his was the recent high profile breach of Sony Pictures. Add to this Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase and countless others and you have almost a breach a minute profile, in essence leading up to potentially relentless zero day attacks. In an article “FBI warning links wiper malware to Sony Pictures hack” the FBI warns U.S. businesses of attacks that may utilize wiper malware like that used in the Sony Pictures cyberattack. In another article “Inside the “wiper” malware that brought Sony Pictures to its knees [Update],” the image below represents part of an FBI memo detailing destructive malware believed to have been used in the Sony Pictures cyber attack.
It was stated in the article that Sony was ready to announce that the company has attributed the attack on its network to North Korea, according to sources at the company. Why North Korea? Some believe it may have to do with the new movie (being released on Christmas) The Interview, a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, where Franco who plays a famous television host named Dave Skylark and Rogen who plays his producer Aaron Rapoport score a major interview opportunity with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
The plot of the film — as Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate the dictator. I’ve seen the previews and it looks like a laugh until it hurts comedy. However, even though this is promoted as an absolute comedy, could the North Koreans be upset about this as the country’s leader is set up for an imaginary assassination? It appears that they just might be, even though there has of course been full denial over the incident. It was revealed however that the breach was purely about destroying information and embarrassing the company. Hackers stole movie scripts, entire films, internal memos and personal information on movie stars and Sony employees. Then they wiped computers. Moral of the story — stop making true to life assassination comedies I guess.
As more malicious actors take to cyber space, no one is truly safe from attacks, as detailed by Frank Abagnale who at the Summit repeated the constant call for heightened controls and vigilance, and now potentially by a country offended by the plot of a major motion picture — comedy. According to Mr. Abagnale it’s essentially now, not later, or else. And like the young Frank Abagnale, secret identities are passing through airports, hospitals and evading the law at every juncture. Frank moved elusively in the zero hour as those who act in cyber space, where both have uttered that same line: “Catch me if you can.”
Life imitating art…
(For my full-scale blog on the Sony Pictures breach see Sony-pocalypse — Now What…?)