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Cybersecurity goes to Hollywood – an Eskenzi PR review of Argylle and Beekeeper

By March 11, 2024No Comments

While Oppenheimer may have dominated last night’s Oscars, two other recent films piqued the attention of the Eskenzi team thanks to their focus on cybersecurity – Argylle and Beekeeper. 

Cybersecurity and hacking are hardly new tropes within cinema – 1983’s WarGames, for example, focused on a hacking storyline, while Lisbeth Salander’s hacking skills are central to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. However, with cybersecurity now integral to our lives and our economy, the topic is increasingly drawing filmmakers’ focus. But how accurate is the depiction of cybersecurity in cinema? And is there anything we can learn about cybersecurity practices? 

Recently, two of the Eskenzi PR team, Charley and Rohit, visited the cinema to watch films with cybersecurity at the heart of the storylines and provided their thoughts on what they saw. 

Charley watched Argylle: 

It is not immediately obvious that Argylle is a film centred around a stolen Masterfile (in fact, it’s not immediately obvious what the film’s about at all). A Masterfile on (of all things) a USB stick shaped like a silver bullet. Do computers actually have USB ports anymore? 

Oh no, I thought, as a man sat in an empty room in the Docklands, surrounded by many screens, started manically bashing on a keyboard. I think he’s downloading the file onto said USB stick. Regardless, he is shot in black and white with, and I’m not joking, fluorescent green hair. Predictable, yes. Enough to make me squirm in my seat? No, not yet. 

An undisclosed amount of time later, that same room was cleared. To show the passing of time, it’s no longer shot in black and white. But here’s the kicker. Under the floorboards of this completely empty room is a notebook, with the hacker’s signature stamp (the anarchist symbol) printed on the front, that (I kid you not) has all of his hackery hacking material in it, code and all. Yikes. What’s the first rule of cybersecurity? Don’t write it down. May I suggest a secure, encrypted vault for such information, like a password manager (Keeper, for example)? 

Oh, but the ‘hacking’ doesn’t stop there. Please, I hear you beg, not more! Has no one ever heard of MFA? Cut to another scene, John Cena sits in the back of a van, bashing keys and shouting a litany of nondescript cyber-adjacent buzzwords like ‘backdoor’ and ‘firewall’. Not full sentences really, just words, as an online world opens up for him. For a film that hinges on the fact that its protagonist is adept at – perhaps obsessive over – ‘meticulous research and detail’, it’s obvious that this courtesy doesn’t extend to those who carry out international espionage of the cyber kind. But then maybe I’m taking it far too seriously. 

Rohit watched Beekeeper:  

Seeing the trailer for Beekeeper, with explosions, Jason Statham shooting guns and high-octane action, I was already interested in where the story was going. But then to see there was a cybersecurity element to the storyline, I was intrigued…but I wasn’t completely sure how it all tied in. I guess the trailer did its job because I ended up visiting my local cinema to see it.  

So, it’s a cyber-thriller action film with Jason Statham playing Adam, a former human intelligence operative as part of the Beekeepers Group, which protects the United States and acts above the government. Thankfully, he is also an actual beekeeper so I’m glad he’s doing his part for the wider world. 

Sadly, his elderly landlord becomes a victim of an online phishing scam which results in $2 million being stolen from her bank account, pension, and a charity she helps manage. This leads her to commit suicide and sets off a domino effect of fighting, explosions, and bullets. 

Phishing is widely considered the number one attack vector and the elderly population is an extremely vulnerable demographic, so it was nice to see the storyline stick to a well-known reality in the current world. 

Adam, hell-bent on revenge, goes on a violent rampage (much of which is very farfetched) to uncover the cybercriminal group and the hackers behind the attack and bring them to justice. This is where the storyline became preposterous but predictable, boring, and annoying – Jason Statham was constantly swaying between a British and American accent. I’m also unashamed to say that I fell asleep briefly during the middle part of the film – damn those wide and comfortable recliner seats! 

Nevertheless, the film did raise a serious issue of phishing and for us to improve the cybersecurity awareness of those around us. If action films continue to spread this message, then I’m all for it!