Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies 12.29.22
Ep 15 | 12.29.22

Sisters, grifters, and shifters.



Abigail Breslin: (As Little Rock) Your ring? 

Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) It was my friend's. You know, I'm going to send it to her. 

Abigail Breslin: (As Little Rock) Do I get a reward? 

Dave Bittner: Hello, everyone, and welcome to a special edition of the "Hacking Humans" podcast, an occasional series we call "Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies." I'm Dave Bittner, and joining me is my CyberWire colleague, Rick Howard. Hello, Rick. 

Rick Howard: Hey, Dave. How's it going? 

Dave Bittner: Going well, thank you. On this show, Rick and I look at some of our favorite clips from cinema and television - clips which demonstrate some of the scams and schemes that Joe Carrigan and I talk about on "Hacking Humans". And our special guest this episode is Amanda Fennell from Relativity. Amanda, welcome. 

Amanda Fennell: Woot, woot (ph). I'm here. 

Rick Howard: Yay. 

Amanda Fennell: Let's do it. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Rick Howard: Welcome, Amanda. 

Amanda Fennell: Yay. 

Rick Howard: I've been... 

Dave Bittner: All right. 

Rick Howard: ...Trying to get this done. I'm glad you're here. It's fantastic. 

Amanda Fennell: I know. 

Dave Bittner: Yes. Yes, indeed. 

Amanda Fennell: Thank you. 

Dave Bittner: All right. We've got some fun clips to share, so stay tuned. We will be right back after this message from our show's sponsor. 

Dave Bittner: All right. We are back, and I am going to kick things off for us this time. My clip I'm going to start off with is from the 2009 comedy-horror film "Zombieland." Have either of you seen this film? 

Rick Howard: Great choice. Anything with zombies, it's fantastic. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Amanda, are you a zombie fan? 

Amanda Fennell: I am a huge fan. 

Dave Bittner: OK. So in this scene, we've got a pair of con artist sisters whose name in the film are Wichita and Little Rock - had creative parents, I guess - and they're executing what's known as a violin scam. And this is where someone convinces another person that something of value has been lost. And this scene takes place at a gas station. And Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are the scamming sisters. And we start off with Emma Stone is at this gas station and she is - she's got her car parked in front of the gas pumps and she is down on her hands and knees searching for something. And that is where the clip begins. I'll roll it now. 


Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) What are you looking for? 

Emma Stone: (As Wichita) My engagement ring. I took it off to pump my gas... 

Rick Howard: Now, she's in distress, let's just say. 


Emma Stone: (As Wichita) Put it in my purse, but it must have fallen out. And I'm late for my flight and I'm... 

Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) Listen, I'll find your ring and I'll FedEx it to you. 

Emma Stone: (As Wichita) I'll give you a reward. 

Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) Don't be silly. 

Emma Stone: (As Wichita) $3,000. It's worth more than my car. 

Rick Howard: Three thousand dollars? 


Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) Just give me your number. Yeah, I'll find it. Yeah, I'll start looking for it right now. Yeah, 'cause I got nothing else to do. I was engaged once, but I'm single now. 

Rick Howard: I'm so surprised. 


Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) Bye. 

Rick Howard: Shocked, I say. 


Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) Hope you make your flight. 

Rick Howard: That guy probably hasn't had a date in 10 years. 


Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) But I know it's around here somewhere. She's on a plane. That's the beauty of it. Let me call you back. Hey, you found my ring. Thanks, I've been looking all over for it. 

Abigail Breslin: (As Little Rock) Your ring? 

Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) It was my friend's. You know, I'm going to send it to her. 

Abigail Breslin: (As Little Rock) Do I get a reward? 

Mike White: (As Victim in Bathroom) Forty, 60, 80, 400. That's it. That's the whole register. You made someone very happy. 

Abigail Breslin: (As Little Rock) You too. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter).


Emma Stone: (As Wichita) Nice. How many left? 

Abigail Breslin: (As Little Rock) Let me see - enough for us to get to California. Someday I want a ring this big. 

Emma Stone: (As Wichita) For the low price of 30 bucks, sold. 

Dave Bittner: All right. What do you guys think? 

Amanda Fennell: Ooh, man, I got to tell you. So if I remember correctly, they're named that because that's where they're from. Like, that's their city. I think that's, like, why they were named these things or whatever. But it always reminds me of, like, the importance that you learned from the early on one from "Sneakers" - is that it's all about stress with humans, right? It's always about the stressful situation that makes us do foolish things. So, Rick, I don't know what your first takeaway is, but my first one is that it's always about the emotion and the acting that takes place that - in order to pull on those heartstrings. 

Rick Howard: Well, the - what got me was Emma Stone, who - can I say this on a public podcast? She's looking fine. OK. 

Amanda Fennell: I know. 

Rick Howard: Right. 

Amanda Fennell: She's - I girl crush on her. 

Dave Bittner: She's easy on the eyes. Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: Yeah, yeah. 

Rick Howard: And she's on her hands and knees... 

Amanda Fennell: I know. 

Rick Howard: ...As the gas station attendant walks out, OK? That's an easy mark in my mind. 

Amanda Fennell: Wearing a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes, by the way. I saw the red-bottomed soles. So, yeah, she's obviously, like, putting across the idea that she has wealth and opulence. 

Rick Howard: Yes. 

Amanda Fennell: She's got a BMW. She's got an expensive... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Amanda Fennell: ...Supposedly $3,000 ring. Like, I don't know, guys. My diamond ring is a lot more than that. So I'm wondering, like - though I think that... 

Dave Bittner: Well, that's the reward she offers. Yeah. She says the ring is worth more than her car. 

Amanda Fennell: Oh, it's a reward. OK. That's what it is. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. So that would indicate, you know, above 20, 30 grand - something like that. So... 

Dave Bittner: At least. 

Amanda Fennell: Well, that looked like a 6 Series, but - oh, no, actually - 'cause - so I - you know I love cars. So, like, it was a more recent model of the BMW - at least 55,000, so... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. 

Rick Howard: So she - and then she very quickly says it's - I'll give you $3,000 for it. And the guy is taken aback just for a second, and he sees the money. It's like the old Bugs Bunny cartoons, where the dollar signs are in the guy's eyes, right? You get to see it happening. That's going to be... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: ...Some easy money for him. That's right. 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Amanda Fennell: Well... 

Dave Bittner: So... 

Amanda Fennell: So, Dave, why is this called the violin scheme? Is that what it is? 

Dave Bittner: It's called the violin scam because, I guess, originally, back when people started doing it, the object of value was a violin. Someone would, you know, say, oh, I lost my violin. I left my violin behind somewhere, or... 

Rick Howard: Oh. 

Dave Bittner: So if you find my... 

Rick Howard: I thought it was because... 

Dave Bittner: If you find my violin... 

Rick Howard: ...They were singing. They were crying because they'd lost something valuable. Like, you know, play a violin of sorrow for me. So... 

Dave Bittner: That could be. 

Rick Howard: I love yours better. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Could be. That's my understanding. But, of course, you know, these things are often - the stories behind them are often lost to history. But, you know, it's interesting how they both - the two gals who are involved in this scam - obviously, they're in cahoots together. And then the other - the younger woman comes in, and she gets her $400 because the guy thinks that he's going to get three grand. So... 

Rick Howard: Yeah, that's an easy... 

Dave Bittner: Four hundred dollars for the ring. 

Rick Howard: Yeah - a little investment. 

Dave Bittner: Easy calculation. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: But that's the actual scam, right? The two of them make it off with 400 bucks, I guess, less than an hour. And, you know, you can do well with that. 

Rick Howard: I think so. 

Amanda Fennell: And what'd she say? At least 30 more - is that what she said? 

Rick Howard: Well, that's the part I liked the best - when they got back to the car and she goes, how many more rings do we have left? And they pull out an envelope of 30 of these cheap rings, right? 

Amanda Fennell: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: It's like, oh, my goodness. That's a big payday at the end if you get money - $400 for each one of those. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, they had it down, and they were good at it. You could see how this - totally see how this one could work, right? 


Rick Howard: Exactly. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: I know, but... 

Amanda Fennell: All right. 

Amanda Fennell: I mean, like, I feel like - I'm looking back to try to remember if I've ever fallen for something like this, but - yeah. So I do think it is one of those just infallible problems with human beings that we all have. Like, we want to be helpful. We want to help somebody who's in distress. But certainly, if you're preying upon somebody who would find Emma Stone attractive (laughter), they're definitely going to help. 

Dave Bittner: Which is most human beings. 

Amanda Fennell: Most human beings. Yeah. I will say, I brought her up one time with my husband because I love her, and he was like, I don't see it. And I was like, you're lying. Come on. You're lying. But, yeah, so I agree on Emma Stone. 

Dave Bittner: Fair enough. 

Rick Howard: I think the - one of the important things here is that first, the guy is coming out just trying to help her. Maybe he's going to, you know, get a chance with her. And then he - like, on a dime, he turns on her and says, oh, I'm going to scam her on this, right? So I think that's an important piece of this. 

Amanda Fennell: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: And he's single. 

Dave Bittner: You know, I will share with you guys, I did fall for one of these once. Amanda... 

Rick Howard: Oh, no. 

Dave Bittner: ...You asked. Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: There's a variation of this scam. It's similar to this scam, and you see it happening a lot these days. Someone will be - they'll pretend to be broken down on the side of the road at an offramp from a highway. So as you're coming off the highway, they flag you down, and they ask you for money to get some gas. They say they're out of gas, but they offer you their - something of value - a gold ring, a gold chain, something like that - in exchange for the money. And I stopped to help someone who, you know, just flagging me down. I was trying to be helpful. And we went through this whole thing, and he offered me his gold ring and a gold chain. And I said, no, no, no. I said let me - why don't you just let me drive you to the gas station and I'll get you some gas and we'll come back. I'm happy to do that. I'm not in a hurry. And then we can get you the gas and off your way. And he had every - oh, no. My wife and my baby are in the car, and... 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: You know, I just - I'll just walk and this, that and the other thing. So I ended up giving him $20 and I said, no, I don't need your ring. I don't need your - you know, thank you for your good faith offer, but I don't need those things. Here's some money. Good luck to you. And off I went. And only later did it hit me. And I went, you know what? 


Amanda Fennell: Maybe. 

Dave Bittner: But here's the thing - Joe and I have talked about this on "Hacking Humans" a lot, that I have made the deliberate decision that I would rather go through life occasionally being scammed by people and being OK with it than going through life cynically, believing that everyone is out to scam me. 

Rick Howard: I'm with you, Dave. I'm not going to worry about that. You gave 20 bucks to help somebody, OK? It doesn't matter... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: ...Whether he was trying to scam you or not, OK? 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: You lightened - you elevated your soul a little bit that day, so good for you, sir. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) I would think so. What do you think of that, Amanda? Was I just being... 

Amanda Fennell: It's... 

Dave Bittner: ...A fool, or? 

Amanda Fennell: No, no. I think it's odd to have three security people on a podcast, and we're all, like, optimists, but yeah. I also... 

Rick Howard: You're so right. 


Amanda Fennell: Yeah. Like, why are we all optimistic? I don't know. But I will say there's this great, like, mantra or something that was, like, a saying that somebody once told me. I was starting to try to do investments, and he gave me this one piece of advice, this guy named Chris. And he goes, Amanda, never put anything on the line you're not willing to lose. And I think it's the same. Like, so you lost 20 bucks, but you were willing to lose it. And so it's OK. 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Amanda Fennell: And I think that that's really where you make the cost-benefit analysis of, like, sure, maybe you're being scammed, but you were OK with giving $20 towards that. And so you never put anything on the line you're not willing to lose. And that's fine. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: Yep. I'm with you. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, that's a great way to frame it. All right. Well, that is my clip this week. Rick, we are going to move on to you because your clip this week is remarkably similar to mine. 


Dave Bittner: So... 

Rick Howard: Unplanned, OK? 

Dave Bittner: No, we did not... 

Rick Howard: Unplanned. 

Dave Bittner: We did not coordinate this, for better or for worse. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: So what do you have going on here? 

Rick Howard: Yeah. My clip this week is from the 1997 movie called "Traveller" - OK? - directed by Jack Green. You guys probably know him as a cinematographer from "Unforgiven," the great Clint Eastwood movie. And it stars the late, great Bill Paxton, best known for, you know, my favorite movies like "Aliens" and "Tombstone" and "Apollo 13" and a very young Mark Wahlberg, best known for "Boogie Nights" and "The Departed," in my mind. And one more. And I always mispronounce her name - maybe you guys can help me. Her name is Julianna Margulies, best known for... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. 

Rick Howard: ...The TV show, "ER." Do you know - are you familiar... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: ...With her, Amanda? 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: Yeah. I watched... 

Dave Bittner: She's... 

Amanda Fennell: ..."ER" when it was a thing. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: You know, I think I was, like, 14. I was totally watching it, but. And when George Clooney was first on scene, huh? 

Rick Howard: Oh, there you go, yeah. 

Dave Bittner: That's right. Yeah, I was a few years older (laughter). 

Rick Howard: So the movie's about - oh, yeah. No kidding. 

Dave Bittner: She's - I think she's probably better known, now, for being the star of the show "The Good Wife." 

Rick Howard: That's right. That's right. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: Exactly right. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: So the movie's about a young man, Wahlberg - and this - like I said, remember, it's a very young Wahlberg - who reestablishes some old family ties with a clan of gypsy-like grifters in rural North Carolina. And so this is the perfect movie for "Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies." It's about a giant family of con men and women, right? So this clip is Wahlberg's first successful grift as part of the clan. Now, remember, like I said, Wahlberg is young and he walks into a local dive bar wearing a brand-new suit - not an expensive suit, more like the suit you get off the rack at Wal-Mart, but a new suit. And he looks a bit naive. And Margulies is tending the bar. So play the first part of this, Dave. 

Dave Bittner: All right. 


Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) What can I get you? 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) A martini, please? 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) This ain't exactly The Ritz. You want to order something normal? 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Pardon me. A bottle of Bud would be fine. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Where are you from? 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Atlanta. Just up here on business. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Jean) What kind of business you in? 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Jewelry. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Ain't you kind of young to be out on the road selling? 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) My dad owns a company. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) It's nice to have a leg up, huh? 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Yeah, I guess. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) That's nice. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) It's been in my family for years. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Beautiful. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Thanks. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) It's $2 for the beer. 

Rick Howard: All right, stop it there, Dave. So these are the preliminaries. It's called playing the con in the con man biz - basically befriending the victim. Wahlberg is establishing himself as a young man with money in the jewelry business and shows Margulies what appears to be an expensive pen in his lapel, which becomes important later. He's a big tipper and buys a round of - for the patrons in the bar. All right, roll the next piece. 


Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Thanks. Jewelry business is treating you pretty good. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Well, I guess I like to spread it around. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) That's nice. I could use it. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Why don't you go set them up all a round. The rest is for you. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Wow. Thanks a lot. 

Unidentified Actor #1: (As character) Hey, thanks, buddy. 

Unidentified Actor #2: (As character) Thanks, man. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Pleasure. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Hey, you OK? 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) No, my stick pin is gone. I can't find it. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Well, it's got to be around here somewhere. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) I looked. Somebody must have walked off with it. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Uh-uh. Nobody here'd do that. Did you look over by the bar? 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) No. 

Rick Howard: All right, stop it there, Dave. All right. This part's called the tale. Wahlberg tells Margulies that he's lost his very expensive lapel pin. And everybody in the bar stops what they're doing and looks for it. All right, move - roll the clip again. 


Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) His old man gave it to him. Shit. Listen, I'm going to be here for a couple of days. I'm staying at the Sunset Motel. You know where it is? 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Yeah, sure. It's right down the street. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) Room 125. My name's Jim Tom Clark. Can you remember it? 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Sure. Jim Tom Clark, room 125. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) I got to get it back. I'll pay a thousand dollars cash if you find it. No questions asked. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Well, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for it. 

Mark Wahlberg: (As Pat) I'm going to check back tomorrow. If it turns up, you call me. I'll come right back over. Oh, remember, thousand dollars cash to anybody who finds it. 

Rick Howard: All right, stop there, Dave. Does this sound exactly like "Zombieland?" 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 


Rick Howard: All right. 

Dave Bittner: Well - and so it's interesting to me that he kind of - he announces to everybody at the bar... 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: ...Who he's already made friends with by buying everybody a round - all the regulars - that there's a thousand dollars cash in play here if anybody finds this pin. And do I have that right? 

Rick Howard: Yup. Yeah, when he leaves the bar, everybody gets on their hands and knees and starts looking for this thing 'cause they know money is in the bag if they can just find it. 

Amanda Fennell: So what ends up happening? 

Rick Howard: Well, we're going to get to that. So... 

Amanda Fennell: Oh, OK. 

Rick Howard: ...Wahlberg goes back to his hotel where his partner, Bill Paxton, is waiting, and then sends Paxton in to finish the con. Paxton goes to the bar, buys a beer from Margulies and pretends to drop something on the floor. When he comes back, he has the pin - Wahlberg's lapel pin - in his hands. Margulies sees her opportunity and asks Paxton to meet her at the end of the bar, away from the ears of everybody, and tries to con on her own. OK, roll this last piece. 


Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) That's mine. 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) Really? 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Oh, yeah. I've been looking for it all night. My daddy gave me that pin. It's been in the family forever. You don't believe me. I don't believe this. 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) Why'd you move me down the bar, then? 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) You think I want them knowing my business? There'd be no end to it, just be one thing after the next. Now, can I have my pin? 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) I believe I deserve a reward. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) OK. OK, that's fair. I'll give you $5. (Laughter) That's a little cheap, isn't it? OK, 10. 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) You know what I think? 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) What? 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) I don't think this is your pin at all. I think you're trying to put one over on me. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) You're starting to make me mad - a hundred dollars. 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) I don't think so. This looks like money to me. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) I'm going to go call the police - 200. 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) Now it gets interesting - 400. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Nope. 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) Five. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) Hey, you just said four hundred. 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky) Then I said five. Six. 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) But - now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Are you finished? I'll give you $500. And that's just for the sentimental value. 

Bill Paxton: (As Bokky, laughter) Honey, you are as cute as all get-out. You're travelling in some pretty high cotton. Where are you going to get $500? 

Julianna Margulies: (As Jean) I'll get it. We got a deal? 

Rick Howard: OK, you can stop it there, Dave. She pulls the money out of the till - OK? - gives him the money. And Paxton walks out. And then those two, Wahlberg and Paxton, make a run for it. And she's out all that money, right? It's the exact same scam that we just saw in "Zombieland." I love that. Have you guys seen that movie before? 

Amanda Fennell: I had not seen that movie before, but I have a lot to say about this. Dave, have you seen this movie before? 

Dave Bittner: No, this movie is new to me. 

Rick Howard: I had never seen it before. When I saw Wahlberg and Paxton, I said, I'm in, all right? So what do you think, Amanda? What's your first thought here? 

Amanda Fennell: So it's interesting. You know, sometimes I feel like it's an orchestra of words. And so, you know, you said the summary of this was about grifting 'cause they're, like, a family of, like, vagabonds, grifters, that kind of thing or whatever. So the term grift I'm familiar with. But - and it's because my stepmother is actually Dutch. And the Dutch word that this is derived from, supposedly, is actually a Dutch word called (speaking Dutch), which means, like, digging - like, to dig your own grave kind of thing. 

Rick Howard: Oh, nice. 

Amanda Fennell: And so the exchange between these people really does feel like you're digging a grave, like, you're going deeper and deeper. 

Rick Howard: It does, yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: So that was, like, one thing that kind of flowed back and forth from it. The other thing is that whenever they're negotiating - whenever Bill Paxton's negotiating and he goes up, that is 100% what I do every time I'm negotiating. If somebody doesn't give me what I want, I go up another hundred. And they're always like, that's not how this works. That's not how any of this works. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Amanda Fennell: I'm like, it's how it works for me. Should have taken the first offer. And you'd be surprised how quickly people grab on because they don't want it to go any higher. They're like, fine, fine, fine. That's fine. We'll do that. So I thought... 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: ...That was awesome. 

Rick Howard: Any thoughts... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: ...There, Dave? 

Dave Bittner: Well, it was interesting to me that, as you would expect, being the professional grifter, that Paxton had the edge here, right? As Amanda was saying, by upping the value every time, you know, he was putting the emotional pressure on. He was turning up the heat on her to make this end, to make the bleeding end. And she fell for it. 

Rick Howard: I want to go back to something that Amanda said, the human nature of this, right? You know, Margulies goes, I'm going to call the police and get you out of here. And then two beats go by, and then she makes another offer - OK? - for 200 bucks or something like that. It's like, oh, OK. I see where this is (laughter). 

Amanda Fennell: That is awesome. But so I guess the only thing is she took the 500 or whatever it was out of the till? Is that what happens in the movie? 

Rick Howard: ...Out of the till. Yeah, and then... 

Amanda Fennell: Which is the same... 

Rick Howard: ...Paxton... 

Amanda Fennell: ...Thing the gas station guy did. 

Rick Howard: Yeah, exactly the same, right? Exactly the same. Right. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, that's a good point. So not only did they lose the money, but they're probably going to lose their jobs. 

Rick Howard: She does. She absolutely... 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Rick Howard: ...Gets fired, OK? And then a whole romance starts between Paxton and Margulies 'cause he feels bad that he, you know, fired - got her fired. So - but that's... 

Dave Bittner: Oh... 

Rick Howard: ...Another story. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: ...Well, it's a movie. 


Dave Bittner: All right. Well, I think - it's fascinating to me that we have these two clips from two very different movies, but it is the same scam... 

Rick Howard: Yeah, yeah. 

Dave Bittner: ...In both of them, just played out in a different way. Amanda, why don't you take us out of here today? What do you have to share with us? 

Amanda Fennell: All right. So I am going to use a really short clip, actually. I think it's, like, 30 seconds. It's not very long. But a lot of people have thought about, like, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." And I remember this very vividly in 2009 when this first version came out, not the Daniel Craig one, the original one. When this came... 

Rick Howard: The better one. 

Amanda Fennell: ...Out - yeah, the better one. 

Rick Howard: I just want to get on record here, the better one. 

Amanda Fennell: The better one, right? This particular movie had come out, and it was - it's in Swedish. But the reason why I remember this movie so well - and I haven't seen it since 2009, which is why it's hard for me to find the scene that I was looking for - I remember watching this movie, and I don't know if you sit with your family when they see anything with computer hacking, they always look at you like, is this accurate, you know? And this movie was... 

Rick Howard: I always... 

Amanda Fennell: ...One of the first... 

Rick Howard: ...Tell them it is. Whatever is going on, totally accurate. Yeah. 


Amanda Fennell: Exactly. That's exactly - "Swordfish." A hundred percent, that's what happens. 

Rick Howard: One hundred percent. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Enhance. Magnify. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Amanda Fennell: So this particular movie has a few different things, but I'm just going to show one clip that kind of gives you a taste of it. But to set the stage, at this point, we basically have a 2009 Swedish/Danish thriller, if you will, with a German producer. And the main character is essentially - played by Noomi Rapace, I think is how we pronounce her name, potentially. I don't know. But Lisbeth... 

Rick Howard: Yeah, Rapace might be right. Yeah, I think you're right about that. 

Amanda Fennell: It might be. I'm hoping. But - so Lisbeth Salander is basically a freelance kind of investigator, if you will. She's got a really crazy background. Really lauded in a lot of the books and then later in the movies about her hacking skills. So we're just going to look at about 30 seconds of what that looks like and how that displays on film, and then I'm going to pull apart a little bit what we think about this. 

Rick Howard: All right. 

Dave Bittner: All right. Here's the clip. 


Rick Howard: Lots of pictures taken. Rapace is doing something with her laptop, getting the photos on. 


Rick Howard: Thousands, it looks like. 


Rick Howard: Code... 

Dave Bittner: Lots of windows. 

Rick Howard: ...On the laptop. Financial records, names. Wow. 

Amanda Fennell: OK... 

Rick Howard: I don't know what's going on there, but it's exciting. 

Amanda Fennell: I know. OK. So I'm going to pull this apart for you both in case you haven't seen it or it's been a while since you've seen it. So... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: ...The difficulty that we have with this is a few things, but the way that this is depicted is that she just naturally is able to pull in, as you mentioned, like, thousands of photographs she just took on surveillance, and then she uploads it. There's tons of metadata that just naturally comes up whenever she opens all these pictures. But some of the other issues that we have is that, as will come about later in this movie, is that there's apparently no point-to-point encryption. So she basically will just look for a directory and then just go onto it with no problem for Wennerstrom, who is the person she's investigating. But these people are, like, well-known in the financial world. They would have had some method of encryption naturally. And naturally, like, SSL and TLS is not, like, a crazy technology. Everyone uses that. Everything is encrypted in transit with this kind of information. So the problem we have is that there's accuracy with the way that this picture, this movie depicts a lot of different things. It is eclectic. It takes a lot of different things to pull things together, to put together the pictures of an investigation. But the difficulty is speed is never correct in these movies because they have a short amount of time to get the point across. And then they try to exploit things that are just fundamental security that we're using. Encryption is just fundamentally something that we're using a lot of times. And it's like a natural default. So that's my answer. I put it forth to you two. 

Rick Howard: So I will counter that you're assuming that people in the finance industry are - know how to use their own tools, OK? 


Rick Howard: So that has not been my experience. I'm just going to throw that out there. 

Amanda Fennell: That's valid. 

Dave Bittner: I'll say that one of the things - first of all, Amanda, I agree with everything you're pointing out here. But one of the things that struck me in watching this clip is that they use the old trope that you see whenever there's a hacker doing anything on a computer, which is that not only do computer monitors display everything you're working on, but they project it onto your face. 

Amanda Fennell: (Laughter). 

Rick Howard: Oh, yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: OK. I hadn't thought about that. But I thought you were going to say it was the old adage that they were going to play Rage Against the Machine while she's hacking. But yeah, so valid point. 

Dave Bittner: Oh. Yeah, that's - (laughter). 

Rick Howard: I thought you were going to mention that she's probably one of the first hackers in the movies that wore hoodies - OK? - because she's absolutely doing that, too. All right. So... 

Amanda Fennell: So the other thing - and I couldn't find the clip in order - in time for us, because I really wanted to go over this one talking about this encryption being broken. The best part that I remember from this movie - and I know it's in the book. And I believe it's transferred to the movie. She has to get onto someone's computer. So she goes to a hotel. But she has a friend of hers go and do a man in the middle attack. And so I thought that was one of the best things to display about the security industry, is that it's never something you go alone. You typically have to pull in a friend that happens to know a different skill set. And so... 

Rick Howard: An insider, yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: Yeah, any of this. Like, you have to leverage what you can leverage to get what you're trying to get. And it's rarely going to be a unicorn of one person who can do everything. And I think that that was the one thing I liked from these movies. And I didn't see all of them. But this first one, "The Dragon Tattoo" - "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," I do think did a really good job of showing that hacking is not simple. It takes time. This particular clip's not great at it. The other ones are, I swear. Just take my word for it. And you have to have a team effort. 

Rick Howard: I remember when we - when I was telling you guys before we started the show, my daughter turned me on to this movie back then. All right, so went and watched it, loved it. 

Amanda Fennell: 2009. 

Rick Howard: Yeah, 2009. Right. And then I said, well, I got to read the book, thinking that it was going to be all about this hacking stuff. And the hacking stuff doesn't show up in the book until, like, the last 20 pages or whatever it is. All right. So it's still great. It's still great. 

Amanda Fennell: It's also a really graphic, horrible story, but yeah. Yeah, yeah. 

Rick Howard: Yeah, it's a - (laughter) it's very good, yeah. 

Amanda Fennell: Dave, what was your experience with this? Were you - have you seen this movie? 

Dave Bittner: No, I have not (laughter). 

Rick Howard: Oh, my goodness. 

Dave Bittner: Sorry. 

Rick Howard: Did you see the Daniel Craig one? Are you a complete newbie here, Dave? 

Dave Bittner: No, I have not seen the - no, I haven't. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Amanda Fennell: Oh, don't bother. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: I'm certainly familiar with the name of the film. It's an iconic name. And I know - it seems that people who - this movie is kind of like black licorice. People who like this movie really like this movie (laughter). So... 

Rick Howard: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's exactly right. 

Dave Bittner: But, no, if you recommend it, I will have to check it out. Maybe I'll do that over the holidays or something. 

Amanda Fennell: Yeah, I can't - I don't know if I'd recommend it. There's a reason why. It is a really graphic, violent movie and really bad murders taking place in it. So if that's not your cup of tea, if you're not a "Hannibal" kind of fan, then you might want to... 

Dave Bittner: OK. 

Amanda Fennell: You might want to pass. 

Dave Bittner: All right. 

Rick Howard: I remember when it came out and we were all - most people were turned off because you had to read the subtitles. But now that we've been doing the pandemic for so long and everybody watches movies at my age with subtitles on, it doesn't matter at all. 

Amanda Fennell: I don't know. I got to tell you, I'm one of those people that's like - I put subtitles on for everything. I always have. 

Rick Howard: Everything? 

Amanda Fennell: Everything, yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. All right, friends, well, lots of good stuff this time through. Thank you both for taking the time and selecting these great clips. Of course, Rick Howard, always a pleasure to have you be a part with us here and our very special guest, Amanda Fennell from Relativity. Thank you so much for joining us this week. 

Amanda Fennell: Thank you. 

Rick Howard: Thanks, Amanda. That was fantastic. 

Amanda Fennell: Thanks. 

Dave Bittner: We want to thank the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute for their participation. You can learn more at isi.jhu.edu. The "Hacking Humans" podcast is proudly produced in Maryland at the startup studios of DataTribe, where they're co-building the next generation of cybersecurity teams and technologies. Our senior producer is Jennifer Eiben. Our executive editor is Peter Kilpe. I'm Dave Bittner. 

Rick Howard: And I'm Rick Howard. 

Dave Bittner: Thanks for listening.