Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies 3.26.23
Ep 17 | 3.26.23

Fingerprinting fights off fraud?



Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) I have really done it this time, have I not, Master? 

Larry Hagman: (As Tony Nelson) You sure have. You've been taken by the greatest con artist in the world. 

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. 

Dave Bittner: 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." We've got some fun clips to share, so stay tuned. 

Dave Bittner: All right, Rick, we have got a fun episode today. And I am going all out here with a bit of wackiness. My clip this week is from... 

Rick Howard: A little nostalgia, right? 

Dave Bittner: A little, well... 

Rick Howard: I mean, going back to the '60s, yeah. Come on. 

Dave Bittner: Well, we'll get to that. So my clip is from the classic TV show "I Dream of Jeannie." 

Rick Howard: Love it. 

Dave Bittner: Now, I will posit that "I Dream of Jeannie" has one of the best TV theme songs ever. Would you agree? 

Rick Howard: I totally agree. I think you're right about that. 

Dave Bittner: In fact, I would put it right up there with one of your favorites, "Jonny Quest." 

Rick Howard: Oh, well, you know, on Mondays and Thursdays, I would debate you, but today, I'll let you have that one, all right? 

Dave Bittner: I think they're similar styles, you know, a lot of trombones, a lot of horns or - they're both really good stuff. So for those who aren't familiar with the show, as Rick mentioned, this is a show from the 1960s. It starred Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman. I'm going to read the Wikipedia description here. It says, (reading) "I Dream of Jeannie" is an American fantasy sitcom television series, created by Sidney Sheldon, that starred Barbara Eden as a sultry, 2,000-year-old... 

Rick Howard: Sultry. 

Dave Bittner: ...Genie and Larry Hagman as an astronaut with whom she falls in love and eventually marries. Produced by Screen Gems, the show originally aired for 139 episodes over five seasons, from September 18, 1965, to May 26, 1970, on NBC. Now, Rick, did you watch the original run of this show? 

Rick Howard: Not the original run, but, you know, it was on reruns forever, right... 

Dave Bittner: Yes. 

Rick Howard: ...When I was growing up. And so when we'd come home from school, "I Dream of Jeannie" was just one of the things that would be on, as well as "Gilligan's Island" and... 

Dave Bittner: Yep. 

Rick Howard: ...You know, "Batman" and all that stuff. So yeah, I totally watched all the shows. 

Dave Bittner: Same with me. I - well, I was not born yet during the original run of the show, so I only caught it in reruns, but - throughout the '70s. And this is one of those fun, light comedy shows, just a classic '70s sitcom. I will say that it is also of its time. 

Rick Howard: Yeah, yeah. 

Dave Bittner: I think the whole idea of this beautiful woman living in a bottle and being bound to her master seems kind of cringeworthy today. 

Rick Howard: A little. I did... 

Dave Bittner: Just a little bit. 

Rick Howard: I - she called him Master in the TV clip we're going to watch it, and I had to cringe a little bit, I have to admit (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, they tried to ease it up in the pilot episode by saying that she chooses to be with him under - by her own will, and he sets her free, but she insists on staying with him. OK. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. Now that we got that behind us... 

Dave Bittner: There's also - yeah. There's also no explanation for why a woman/genie who says she is originally from Baghdad and 2000 years old would be tall, blond and Caucasian. But... 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Dave Bittner: Whatever. It was a different time. I think it's... 

Rick Howard: You are... 

Dave Bittner: ...Controversial enough. 

Rick Howard: ...Definitely reading too much into this, Dave. That's what I'm saying. 

Dave Bittner: I think it was controversial enough in the '60s that she was showing her belly button on TV. 

Rick Howard: Oh, yeah. I remember, yeah. 

Dave Bittner: They didn't want to take it any farther with, you know, some kind of, you know, interracial, taboo love affair or something like that, right? So the clip I'm featuring today features the great Milton Berle, Mr. Television. 

Rick Howard: Oh, Milton Berle, right? 

Rick Howard: Most people don't even know who Milton Berle is these days, right? So... 

Dave Bittner: No, not anymore. 

Rick Howard: I'm glad we're bringing him back. Yep, yep, yep. 

Dave Bittner: Milton Berle was certainly one of the pioneers of television. If you're not familiar - if you're of a certain age, you know exactly who we're talking about. If not, you probably don't. But if you go look him up, you'll say, oh, right, that guy. My parents or my grandparents have told me... 

Rick Howard: Well, that certain... 

Dave Bittner: ...About that guy. 

Rick Howard: Of a certain age, Dave, is anybody north of us, OK? That's how old this is, right? So (laughter)... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. yeah. That's true. That's true. So this clip features Milton Berle. He is a con man who convinces Jeannie to trade her scarab. So a scarab is like a fancy jewel. So she has this scarab, I guess, that she picked up somewhere along the way during her 2,000 years of being a genie. And this scarab is worth half a million dollars - and let me point out, half a million 1960s dollars. 

Rick Howard: Yeah, indeed. 

Dave Bittner: And he convinces Jeannie to trade the scarab for the deed of a plot of land in Hawaii, which he claims is beachfront property full of diamonds. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Dave Bittner: And now this is kind of going back to a little bit of what makes this show cringeworthy. Part of the trope of this show was that Jeannie was always getting herself into trouble through her innocence, her childlike innocence. And so her master, Major Nelson, who's the astronaut, would have to get her - help get her out of trouble. So the scene starts out in their house. Major Nelson is painting a picture. He's just doing - you know, having fun with one of his hobbies, which happens to be painting. And Jeannie shows up and tells him what's going on. Let's listen to the clip. 


Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Master? 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) What is it? 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Master, I have the most exciting surprise for you. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) I thought you were... 

Rick Howard: There's that master you were talking about. 


Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) You now own the most beautiful beach in O'uha. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) No, it's O'ahu. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) And you are going to build a beautiful home there and sit under the palm trees and eat the coconuts as they fall. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Jeannie, I told you whenever I wanted land, I'd buy it myself. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Oh, but you do not have to buy it, Master. This land did not cost anything. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) How'd you get it? 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Oh, I was very clever. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) How'd you get it? 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) I was much smarter than Mr. Vanderhaven, and he is the richest man in the whole world. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) How'd you get it? 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) All I had to do was to give him my scarab, and he gave me that. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Two acres of sand for a jewel worth a half a million dollars. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Oh, but it is... 

Rick Howard: Worth it, totally worth it. 


Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Master, it is covered with diamonds. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) It's covered with diamonds. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Yes, your land is full of them. Hundreds are washed ashore from the big volcano. And that is why it is called Diamond Head. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Who told you that? 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Mr. Vanderhaven. I have really done it this time, have I not, Master? 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) You sure have. You've been taken by the greatest con artist in the world. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Con artist? 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Yeah. Jeannie, there aren't any diamonds in Hawaii. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Oh, but you are wrong, Master. I picked these up off your beach myself. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Oh, Jeannie, these are probably just industrial diamonds that he scattered on the - you've been taken by the oldest trick in the book. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Oh, no. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Oh, yeah. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) No - oh, my scarab. Oh, King Tut will be furious with me. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Yeah. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Well, I will call the police and tell them exactly... 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Oh, yeah. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) ...What happened. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Yeah. Listen, Jeannie. Why don't you do that? You call the police, and they'll want to know who you are and where you're from. And you'll say you're a genie. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Yes. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) And you come out of a bottle. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) That is right. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) And they'll put us all away. 


Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) But what shall I do, Master? 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Nothing. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Oh, but I must do something. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) No, absolutely nothing. Now, maybe this will be a lesson to you. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Yes, Master. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Well, you didn't come off too badly. I mean, you got three diamonds out of it. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Yes. At least I got the diamonds out of it. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Yeah. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Well, I shall be running along. 

Larry Hagman: (As Anthony Nelson) Where are you going? 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Oh, I will take a nap. I am very sleepy. I always get sleepy when I have been cheated. 


Dave Bittner: So now we're on the boat with Milton Berle, and Jeannie appears. 

Rick Howard: There he is. 


Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) I didn't see you come in, Jeannie. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) I wanted to speak to you about our land. 

Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) Oh, no. You'll have to talk to my lawyer. Now, we had an ironclad deal. If you have any complaints... 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) I did not come here to complain. I came here to thank you. 

Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) There isn't a court in the world - to thank me? 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Yes. I have just come from my beach. You did not tell me how large the diamonds were. 

Dave Bittner: She dumps out a bag full of diamonds. 


Dave Bittner: He takes out a loupe to look at them. 


Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) The diamonds, the diamonds - they're real diamonds. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Yes. The tide keeps washing them up on the shore faster than the trucks can take them away. 

Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) Trucks - truckloads of diamonds. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) It was very generous of you. 

Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) Jeannie, you can't have that land. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Why not? 

Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) Because there's a curse on it. There's a curse of the ancient gods of the volcanoes, the Mumindidndoon (ph) curse. 

Rick Howard: The Mumingoodngoodn (ph) gods. 


Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) I do not believe in curses. 

Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) Well, you're a brave girl. I would never forgive myself if I let anything happen to you. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Oh, but really, I... 

Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) Don't argue. We can't take any chances. Now, I suggest one thing. Just leave this here, and here. You take back the scarab. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Are you sure? 

Milton Berle: (As Mr. Vanderhaven) Sure, I'm positive. And, Jeannie, give me the deed to the land, please. 

Dave Bittner: So Jeannie the diamonds into... 


Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Rock. 

Dave Bittner: Rocks. She uses her magic. 


Milton Berle: (As Charles) I'm the richest man in the world. Truckloads, truckloads. 

Barbara Eden: (As Jeannie) Enjoy yourself. 

Milton Berle: (As Charles) You bet I will. 

Dave Bittner: She disappears. 


Hal Cooper: (As Eddie) Let's go. Let's go. 

Milton Berle: (As Charles) Eddie. 

Hal Cooper: (As Eddie) Where's the scarab? 

Milton Berle: (As Charles) The what? 

Hal Cooper: (As Eddie) The scarab? 

Milton Berle: (As Charles) You're kidding. What scarab? You kidding, Eddie? I gave back that half-million-dollar trinket, that scarab (laughter). 

Hal Cooper: (As Eddie) You what? 

Milton Berle: (As Charles) I gave it back. Look at this, Eddie. Look at this. You know what this is? Do you know what this is? 

Hal Cooper: (As Eddie) Rock candy. 

Milton Berle: (As Charles) Sure, it's rock candy. 


Dave Bittner: And that's it. 

Rick Howard: That's back when rock candy was a thing, right? You don't see it anymore, yeah. 


Dave Bittner: I - yes. Side note, I will say that to me, rock candy is the most disappointing of candies. I don't... 


Dave Bittner: I hardly classify it as candy to me, yes. There's a reason you don't find rock candy anymore, it's because there are - it's terrible. And there are much better candies out there. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Dave Bittner: Just one man's opinion. So what do you make of this clip, Rick? This is a fun one, huh? 

Rick Howard: I love this, that you brought this back, because it bring, you know, a little - bring back some old times for me. And here's what I really like about it, though. Jeannie gets taken by the world's biggest con man on the planet, and in seconds reverses the everything by going back and doing the exact same con on him, right? 

Dave Bittner: Right (laughter). 

Rick Howard: And come on, I love that, OK? 

Dave Bittner: Right. Right. 

Rick Howard: And it's all resolved in five minutes, OK? 

Dave Bittner: Of course (laughter). 

Rick Howard: So how great is that (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: With a nice, tidy bow, yeah. You know, Jeannie gets - she gets the best of them. No, it's a good clip. 


Rick Howard: You know, if I had the power to blink and, you know, just make rocks into diamonds, I don't think she would have to worry too much about that scarab. Maybe we shouldn't dive too deep into that plot hole, I'm thinking (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. I don't think there's a whole lot of consistency when it comes to Jeannie's powers and riches and all that sort of thing. I think whatever the plot requires is what she's capable of doing. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter) That's very true. 

Dave Bittner: By the way, I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Eden once. 

Rick Howard: No way. You are now my new biggest hero. 

Dave Bittner: Yes (laughter). So I was at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. This is back in my TV days. I was actually the Steadicam operator for the television broadcast of the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. And she was hosting that show, along with Roy Clark, who was her co-host. This was way back during George W. Bush's term, so we're talking a ways back. 

Rick Howard: A ways back. 

Dave Bittner: But I got to meet her. I got to, you know, say hello and just introduce myself and thank her for all the, you know, wonderful work she's done over the years. And she was very nice. She was very gracious. She was, of course, in her later years, but just as beautiful as she ever was and just kind. And it was a real delight to get to meet her. 

Rick Howard: And Roy Clark was her co-host. I mean, he's the - one of the co-hosts of "Hee Haw." 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: Another '70s perennial TV show, right? So... 

Dave Bittner: I know. I know. 


Rick Howard: We are really dating ourselves on this show (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: It was quite a night, quite a night, and also shows you - I don't know if it's the caliber of stars they can get or the caliber of stars they can afford for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter) 

Dave Bittner: But it was a lovely evening for me and one I will never forget. 

Rick Howard: Awesome. 

Dave Bittner: All right. Well, Rick, let's move on to your clip this week. What do you have for us? 

Rick Howard: Yeah, we're going to go - bring it back to the modern days, OK? We're not going to have to watch TV run by squirrels with this one, OK? 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Rick Howard: So my clip from - for this week is the 2000 movie "Ant-Man," OK, directed by Peyton Reed. And he did all three "Ant-Man" movies and - I don't know, Dave, you probably didn't watch this, but the 2002 hit "Bring It On," the big dance movie, right? So he's that guy. 

Dave Bittner: OK. 

Rick Howard: "Ant-Man" is the 12th MCU movie in 53 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if you can believe that, right? So... 

Dave Bittner: Wow. 

Rick Howard: And this is the first one. And in this scene, Rudd is - this is before he becomes Ant-Man. Paul Rudd is the main actor in this. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: And this is before. And he is a low-level cat burglar. And we see him do one of his capers. So let's roll the clip. And we'll try to talk you through this. This is mostly him doing stuff. We're going to describe what he does here. 

Dave Bittner: All right. 


Rick Howard: So he's shimmying up the two-story house - looks like nobody's home - jumping over and looking very acrobatic. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) He's done this before. 

Rick Howard: Looks like. He's opening up a box and disabling the alarm system. And I will just say that he is the most competent he's ever been in all three movies in this scene right here - right? - because every - after that, he's not been that great. 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: So he goes to the window. He's going downstairs. And he's looking around. 

Dave Bittner: Beautiful house. 

Rick Howard: Yep. He's casing the house. He kind of knows what he's doing. He finds some keys - OK? - on the counter and goes down to the basement and unlocks the door. And then he sees something they weren't expecting to see. 


Paul Rudd: (As Scott) There's a fingerprint lock on the door. 

Michael Pena: (As Luis) It's got a what? Ernesto didn't tell me nothing about that. Aw, man. Are we screwed? 

Paul Rudd: (As Scott) Not necessarily. 

Rick Howard: He's talking to his partners in the van out in the street. 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: So now Rudd is rummaging through the kitchen looking for materials. He finds Scotch tape. He's looking around. He's finding some liquid glue and an old key ring with no keys on it. He stretches out the Scotch tape, puts it on the doorknob, puts the tape down on the table, puts the ring down and then pours the liquid gold - or liquid glue into the ring, heats up the stove and then heats up the tape and the ring. And because it's now solidified, he can pull off a little circlet of a totally formed, perfectly formed fingerprint... 

Dave Bittner: Wow. 

Rick Howard: ...And runs it down to the basement and puts it on the fingerprint reader. And... 


Paul Rudd: (As Scott Lang) I'm in. 

David Dastmalchian: (As Kurt) No alarms have been triggered. He's in like... 

Rick Howard: There you go - just like a ghost. 

Dave Bittner: He says the phrase. He says the phrase, Rick. 

Rick Howard: He's in. 

Dave Bittner: (Impersonating Paul Rudd) I'm in. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. You can stop it there, Dave. You can stop it there. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Rick Howard: Yeah. I think it's by law now that you have to say you're in, OK, if you are... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 


Rick Howard: All right. So here's my... 

Dave Bittner: It's part of the actors union deal. Yeah. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. (Laughter). So here's my question to you, Dave. 

Dave Bittner: OK. 

Rick Howard: This is a kind of a trope - this is a trope in all spy movies, heist movies. 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: What do you think - what is the probability that this will actually work in the real world? What do you think? 

Dave Bittner: Of pulling fingerprints? 

Rick Howard: Yeah. Pulling fingerprints on tape and running it down to a fingerprint reader to see - and breaking into buildings and things. 

Dave Bittner: My understanding is that this can actually work. In fact, you know Dinah Davis, who is our partner, worked at Arctic Wolf? 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Before Arctic Wolf, she worked for... 

Rick Howard: Love her. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. She's great. She worked at BlackBerry. And one of the things that she worked on with BlackBerry were really, like, first-generation fingerprint scanners for security. And she was telling me how one of the ways they used to spoof the fingerprint scanners was using gummy bears. You could pull a fingerprint using a gummy bear and put it on the scanner, and it would scan and let you in. Now, I suspect they're more sophisticated than that now. I hope they are (laughter). But... 

Rick Howard: Well, it's funny you should mention that because I saw the clip, and I went, I got to find out if this is, you know, possible to happen. And it turns out that there's this guy, Michael LaNasa. He wrote an article in Medium - on the Medium blog platform back in 2020 to answer this specific question. And you're right that there are different types of fingerprint readers now. And the very first models back in the '90s, the optical ones, were basically just taking a picture of the finger - the fingerprint. So... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: ...It might have worked back in the '90s, all right? But now we have different kinds of these readers. There's capacitive. There's mechanical, and there's thermal - all designed to counter this kind of movie trope thing, right? 

Dave Bittner: Oh. 

Rick Howard: So here's what's interesting, OK? In the "Captain Marvel" movie - OK? - that came out a while ago... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: ...It's set in 1995, and Nick Fury does the same trick by - you know, by breaking - by pulling a fingerprint off an ID card. But since it was set in 1995, that would probably work back then. But for "Ant-Man," I don't think it would have worked anymore, right? So that's kind of where I'm coming down on it. What do you think? 

Dave Bittner: Let me - well, so let me push back on you a little bit because one of the things that happens in this scene - when he opens that first door - right? - he gets the key to the door, and he unlocks the door, and he opens the door, and he's immediately met with another door. 

Rick Howard: Yep. 

Dave Bittner: And that door has the fingerprint scanner on it. The fingerprint scanner looks old. 

Rick Howard: Oh. You - that's a very good point because even when he breaks through that door with the fingerprint, he goes into another, and there's another door, a very old safe that he has to break through. So... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: ...That would be consistent that all of these security controls would be - oh, so we're going to have to reverse our thought here, Dave, and say... 

Dave Bittner: Well... 

Rick Howard: ...He might have had a shot at this. 

Dave Bittner: But I wonder if even the folks who wrote this movie were - did their research and were being consistent enough to say, yes, this would work if - and so because of that, they put an older style, an older technology of fingerprint scanner on that door to make it more plausible. 

Rick Howard: I - you know, I love the MCU, OK? And they are - they have some pretty decent writers. So I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they did that on purpose without explaining it, so nerds like you and I can spend hours worrying about it. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Right, right, right. Next up, we're going to figure out how Jeannie got in that bottle. 


Rick Howard: Well, there you go. 

Dave Bittner: All right, my friend - good clips, good show. Thanks so much for joining us. 

Rick Howard: Thank you, sir. 

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.