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Re: "The Net"

[email protected] (Timothy C. May) writes:
> I saw "The Net" yesterday and was moderately entertained. Lots of leaps of

I saw it about 1/2 hour ago. I make a point of seeing every computer-related
movie. I don't think real movie-goers would enjoy it much. It's cheap and
unprofessional. Lots of running around, but no real car crashes. The acting is
terrible. The star should NOT have appeared in a bikini. Yech.

> logic, especially the notion that one can be "vanished" by having computer
> records changed--I can believe that such changes would screw things up, but
> surely even the character played by Sandra Bullock (nicely) would have
> human friends and associates to vouch for her.

They try to "explain this away" by saying that 1) she lived in the neighborhood
for 4 years and never got to know any neighbors (as one of the neighbors tells
the police), 2) her mother's got Alzheimers and doesn't recognize her anymore,
3) she telecommutes for a company in another city and only knows 2 people there
in real life. One gets killed at the beginning; the other gets fired and she
makes no attempt to find him (one of the many loose ends). The computer-related
plot is just slightly more plausible.

(Movies about financial services, like _Wall St_ usually distort reality much
worse than movies about computers. Can you say "creative licence"?)

> The portrayal of her job as a "beta tester," with a couple of Mac screens
> running and lots of MacTCP connections, was well done. In fact, maybe the
> most interesting look at computer screens I've seen.

Yes, everything is done on various PowerMacs, including playing Wolfenstein.
Could be X terminals. Except for a little Duo she gave her shrink/boyfriend,
and a powerbook she used at the beach. IMO, it's better than most such
scenes... It's way better than the scene in Wargames where the computer tries
to pick 10 digits of a password one by one... Not as good as Sneakers...

In a typical suspenseful scene (not a spoiler), the heroine sneaks into an
office and sets off a fire alarm. Everyone leaves, including a villaine, who
doesn't log off. The heroine receives a new e-mail addressed to the villaine,
with the orders to kill the heroine (clearext), signed 'pretorian'. The heroine
types 'whois pretorian' and gets an IP address, but no name. The heroine goes
through what looks like traceroute and obtains the pretorian's name and picture
(but the viewers know his identity from the start, of course). She finishes
saving it to a floppy disk moments before the villaine returns to the cubicle.

(One of the IP bytes was 344, by the way.)

Another time she types "telnet [email protected]". Another time she
"hot chats" on an her Mac, and hooks up the text to a voice synthesizer.

(If they all exchange so much e-mail, why do they bother FedExing diskettes?)

> If this was the film I advised a woman screenwriter/researcher about (the
> "vanishing" part she was asking me for tips on, 18 months ago), I sure

They may have been reading the Risks digest too much. :) One guy is apparently
flying his Cessna "by wire", thinks he's approaching the airport, actually hits
a smokestack. Another guy gets wrong medications, twice, and dies. All as
the result of the vilaines changing computer records, of course.

Interestingly, there's NO mention of crypto. Once you know someone's password,
or have physical access to the media, you can read and write everything. Once
you change some data, it's changed. No digital signatures. However, once the
virus melts the villaines' mainframe, their data is gone. No backups. And all
the changes they made in other systems are reversed. Reminded me of _The Wizard
of Oz_ a bit.

In fact, the bad guys were selling everyone a computer security system called
"the Gatekeeper" (a Trojan horse, really), but it's not identified as crypto.
It sounded like access rights are checked by their server. It involves a Web
page with a 'pi' symbol (pi stands for pretorian, of course). Clicking on the
pi while pressing control-shift will display much hexadecimal stuff and then
let the user in through a backdoor. Hmm. Gatekeeper = Bill Gates = Windows 95?
Is that why Apple lent those Macs? :)

There's a character named "CyberBob" who's never seen. He only hot-chats
and eventually gets killed. His icon looks like MS Bob.

I heard only one mention the "the Internet". At the end of the movie, a TV
announcer says that the case was cracked because the "programmer analyst
Angela Bennett e-mailed the evidence to the FBI from the Internet".
(E-mailed from an open-access computer at a computer show, I might add)

We were treated to 5 or 6 previews. One was for another movie called
"The Hackers", on the same topic, coming this summer. Some kids like to
break into systems. The bad guy blackmails someone, frames the kids.


<a href="mailto:[email protected]">Dr. Dimitri Vulis</a>
Brighton Beach Boardwalk BBS, Forest Hills, N.Y.: +1-718-261-2013, 14.4Kbps