Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies 2.6.22
Ep 6 | 2.6.22

How to talk your way in anywhere.



Jordan Peele: (As character) On the issue of legitimacy, I, too, have an identification. That's an employee ID from Borders bookstore. 

Dave Bittner: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another special edition of the "Hacking Humans" podcast, an occasional series we call "Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies." I'm Dave Bittner from the CyberWire. And joining me is my "Hacking Humans" co-host, Joe Carrigan from the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. Hello, Joe. 

Joe Carrigan: Hi, Dave. 

Dave Bittner: On this show, Joe and I look at clips from some of our favorite movies, clips which demonstrate some of the scams and schemes we talk about on the "Hacking Humans" podcast. And joining us once again this week is my CyberWire colleague, Rick Howard. He is the CyberWire's chief security officer and chief analyst. Welcome back, Rick. 

Rick Howard: Hey, guys. I got my giant-sized popcorn and super-sized Pepsi. I'm ready to go. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) OK, terrific. Well, we've got some good clips to share this week, so stay tuned. 

Dave Bittner: All right, guys, let's jump into the fun here this week. I must admit, my clip is a little bit of a cheat this week because it's not actually from a movie. But it is so entertaining that I couldn't resist. And I think this will serve our edutainment purposes well here. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Dave Bittner: This clip is from the comedy show "Key & Peele." You guys familiar with that show? 

Rick Howard: Oh, I love that show. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah, I love that show. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: It's a good show. 

Dave Bittner: "Key & Peele" is a... 

Joe Carrigan: You guys... 

Dave Bittner: It's an Emmy-winning sketch comedy show. It was on Comedy Central, and of course, it was created by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. This clip is about two con artists who are played by Key and Peele, and we find these two con artists crossing paths on the street and trying to outdo each other with their cons and scams. When we meet them, they are in a small city parking lot, and they are both holding empty emergency gas cans. So here's the clip from "Key & Peele." 

Rick Howard: As you do. 

Dave Bittner: As you do, yeah. 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Excuse me, big man, big man, big man. Excuse me, big man, though. But big man. OK. God bless you, I'll catch on... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) All right. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...The up-flip. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Thank you, big man. Thank you, big man. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Hey, brother. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Hey. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Can I ask you a question real quick, though, bother man? 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Oh, see, that's good, 'cause I was about to ask you a question right quick. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) OK. So here's the deal, man. Crazy thing. My car ran out of gas about a mile up the road. That's why I was just wondering if I could get a little bit of money, you know, just to get a couple of gallons. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) OK, that's crazy. 'Cause you know what? This - my car had also broke down right up the road. I got my daughter here. She's 5. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) OK. Oh, oh. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) She's sleeping in the car. I got to get back to her real quick. So if you could help me out... 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) I was going to ask you if you could help me. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Oh, OK. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Let me just give you my wallet out here... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Oh, OK. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...And show you my ID to let you know that I am straight-up legit. It's real. I ain't trying to do... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) OK. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...Nothing to nobody. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) On the issue of legitimacy, I, too, have an identification. That's an employee ID from Borders bookstore. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) You see, right here, I got... 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...My Bally Total Fitness ID... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) OK. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...Right there. Shows you... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) OK. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...That I stay fit and conscientious and... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) OK. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...Whatnot. You'll also notice that these... 

Joe Carrigan: (Laughter). 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...Other IDs I have in my hand have the same name on it, which makes you know that it is indeed me... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) OK... 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...Right there, OK? 

Jordan Peele: (As character) ...I, too, have multiple IDs crescendoing in this - dun dun dun dun - Yogurtland... 

Rick Howard: Crescendo. 


Jordan Peele: (As character) ...Punch card. 

Rick Howard: Crescendoing into - oh, my God. 


Jordan Peele: (As character) ...Ninth purchase, apparently. And you... 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) You get a free 10oz... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) ...Can't fake that. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...Yogurt for that. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Yeah. All right. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) All right. 

Rick Howard: And you can't fake that (laughter). 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Our family is in a fiduciary crisis right now. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Yeah. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) My wife is... 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...Languishing in the hospital. She a construction worker. And what happened is she got stuck in the face by a power line, fried her whole head up, burnt both her eyeballs out. She's getting an eyeball replacement surgery... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Oh, see... 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) ...As we speak. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) ...I also have a spousal injury crisis on my midst, as well. My wife was in the astronaut program making her a full-fledged astronaut. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) OK. Impressive. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) She had gotten moon dust in her lungs - inhaled. You don't want... 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) That's never good. 

Rick Howard: Moon dust. She's got moon dust in her lungs. Oh, my God. 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Perhaps if we... 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Oh, look; that's one over there. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Oh, my gosh. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) That's an ATM. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) What's the chances of it? We should probably check that out. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Yeah, let's take a look right there. 


Jordan Peele: (As character) Here we are. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Why, here we are - ATM machines that I did not know previously were here. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) All right - two of them. 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) I'll tell you what we should do, though, man. You give me the 20, OK? 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Yeah. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) I'll give you the three that's on my person. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Yes. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Then I will give you the 17 after. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Then you give me that 17. I'll cut you a check for a hundred just to cover that. You give me the change in cash. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) OK, OK. I feel that. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Why am I playing? I'm just going to give you my ATM card so you know I'm legit. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Sure. Sure. Of course, of course. I'm going to give you my ATM card, so we both have something of value from the other person. 


Jordan Peele: (As character) All right. And your code is? 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) It is 1234. And yours, sir? 

Jordan Peele: (As character) 1235. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) I thank you. 

Rick Howard: Those are my two favorite. 

Joe Carrigan: Yes. Good pins. 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) OK. That is a Ralph's rewards card. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) OK. That is a credit card place holder you would find in a translucent sleeve in a brand-new wallet. 


Dave Bittner: Another gentleman is in the parking lot. 


Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Excuse me, big man. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Big man. 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) Right quick, right quick. 

Jordan Peele: (As character) Can I ask you a question, biggest of men? 

Keegan-michael Key: (As character) I got a question right quick. 


Dave Bittner: So that is... 

Rick Howard: Fantastic. Can we watch it again? We don't have to talk about it. Let's just watch it again. 


Joe Carrigan: Yeah. It's good. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. So... 

Joe Carrigan: One of the funny things is Jordan Peele is like, this is my employee ID from - and then he looks at it. You can't really tell that. And he looks at it and goes, Borders Books. 

Dave Bittner: Right. Right. 


Dave Bittner: It's sort of... 

Rick Howard: I love the fact that they're - yeah, go ahead, Dave. 

Dave Bittner: It's sort of a greatest hits of the kind of, you know, petty cons... 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: ...And scams that you see on the street. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. It's a good... 

Rick Howard: Yeah. I saw a couple of them on previous shows we've done here, right? 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: So yeah, they kind of went through the whole gamut there. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. The quick change - they had the quick change in there. You give me $3. I'll give you 17. You pay me back. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. They had the - let me give you my ID so you know it's real. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Yeah. My kid is asleep in the car, so I got to - we got to... 

Rick Howard: Right (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: We got to make this happen fast, you know? 

Joe Carrigan: It's a lot of stuff going on in here. Of course, it's all - I mean, it's - "Key & Peele" usually - this is one of the things that, you know, no matter how long it goes on, they're hitting new stuff all the time. And it's - this is a good bit. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Yeah. 

Rick Howard: What I love about both of them is that here are these two, you know, lowlifes. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: And they are so articulate, OK? 

Joe Carrigan: (Laughter). 

Rick Howard: They know big words, and they know how to use them, OK? So I love it (laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Right (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: Right. Right. And all of the social engineering that they're doing, right? 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: You know, big man, big man, you know, just... 

Rick Howard: Right. 

Dave Bittner: ...All that sort of thing (laughter). And yeah, it's just great fun. And that both of - they're both - they just keep going with each other, right? 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Right. Right. So good stuff. 

Rick Howard: And here's the ATM that I didn't know was here just before, you know? So I love it. 


Dave Bittner: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Great fun, for sure. We'll have a clip to that YouTube clip in the show notes, of course. Rick, let's go to your clip this week. You're up. What do you got for us? 

Rick Howard: My clip this week is from one of my favorite hacker movies of all time, the 1992 movie "Sneakers," written by the guys that wrote my other all-time favorite hacker movie, "WarGames," Lawrence Lasker and Walter Parkes. It stars Robert Redford, probably best known to our audience for "Avengers: Endgame" and "Captain America: Winter Soldier," and River Phoenix, probably best known to our audience for "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." He played the young Indiana Jones. But the movie is loaded with star power - Academy Award winners and nominees Mary McDonnell, James Earl Jones, Dan Aykroyd, Sidney Poitier and David Strathairn. And the plot centers around two college friends, later in life, who square off trying to obtain the movie's MacGuffin, an electronic device that can decrypt any electronic communications. In the movie, Redford runs a penetration testing company, and in this scene, he and his partner, River Phoenix, have to get past the security of his college buddy's company, the Coolidge Institute. There is a human guard, and there is an electronic lock that the guard protects. 

Rick Howard: The scene starts with River Phoenix dressed as a delivery boy in overalls and a hat, standing next to a pile of boxes containing 36 containers of liquid Drano. And he is already in a heated debate with the guard about whether or not Phoenix has the clearance to go behind the locked door. That's when Redford walks up to the counter dressed like a busy businessman. And you can tell by his demeanor that he's agitated and late and impatient, and he demands the attention of the guard and asks him if his wife had already dropped off the cake for the party upstairs. You then hear a car horn from off camera, and Redford says to nobody in particular, that's probably her, and he leaves the scene. 


John Shepard: (As Coolidge Institute Guard) I'm sorry. They didn't have anything on record. 

River Phoenix: (As character) Just hold on a second... 

Robert Redford: (As Bishop) Did my wife drop a cake off for me? 

John Shepard: (As Coolidge Institute Guard) What cake? There's no cake back here. 

Robert Redford: (As Bishop) Surprise party for Marge on the second floor. She was supposed to drop a cake off. 

John Shepard: (As Coolidge Institute Guard) I don't know anything about it. 


Robert Redford: (As Bishop) There she is, late as usual. 

Rick Howard: Meanwhile, Phoenix ratchets up the tension in his debate with the guard. And then in the background, Redford walks past the guard and Phoenix, right up to the locked door, carrying a big pink box, presumably the cake, and a mass of balloons and asks the guard to buzz him in. Phoenix keeps raising the stakes of the argument with the guard, and the guard keeps telling Redford to wait a second. And finally, Redford yells at the guard to push the buzzer, which he does. 


River Phoenix: (As Carl Arbogast) It states right here very clearly that I am to deliver 36 boxes of liquid Drano to this here address. 

Unidentified Person #1: (As character) Look, I don't care what that says. You're not on the list. You can't get in. I do have a problem with you. You can't get in. 

River Phoenix: (As Carl Arbogast) I might lose my job. 

Unidentified Person #1: (As character) That's not my problem, kid. Now beat it, all right? 


Robert Redford: (As Martin Bishop) I can't reach my card. Can you buzz us in? I can't reach my card. Wait one minute, OK? We're late for the party on the second floor. Push the goddamn buzzer, will you? 


Unidentified Person #2: (As character) Thanks. 

Rick Howard: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how two A-listers scam a guard to get into a locked door. I love that clip. I would be remiss if we didn't take a moment - and we're recording this a week after the late great actor Sidney Poitier died. Right? And I don't know if you've ever watched any of his stuff, but he got an Academy Award for a movie called "Lilies of the Field" in 1963. And him being in this movie - OK? - gave it instant credibility. All right? And so that part I loved when "Sneakers" movie came out in the early 1990s. And if you haven't seen "Heat of the Night" (ph) - OK? - that movie, you are really missing out. So what did you guys think? 

Joe Carrigan: It is a case study in ratcheting up stress on somebody. And, you know, it's got a bunch of different elements. It's got the I got my hands full, can you help me out part. Right? I've talked - we talked about this before in "Hacking Humans." It's a way to get into a place. You may even have a fake or a counterfeit badge that looks like a real badge and sort of hope that somebody else will scan it for you. The way you handle this in the real world is you offer to hold the cake for the person. Right? I'll hold the cake while you badge in. That's what you do. And the guard just is already distracted. That's another key thing, is that the guard is already in a certain situation, doesn't understand that these two guys are in cahoots. Why should he understand that? It's not really a thing that happens very often. And the - coming in for the - with the birthday cake would be something you would see from time to time. If you're the guard in this situation, really the best thing to do is to focus your attention on each individual person and not do anything for the other person while your attention is focused on the first person. 

Rick Howard: Like, one at a time, right, Joe? 

Joe Carrigan: Right. One at a time. 

Rick Howard: We saw this in one of the other shows we did, like in the "Paper Moon" clip we did a couple of weeks ago. All right? 

Joe Carrigan: Right. One at a time. 

Rick Howard: The do one thing at a time, take care of that, then move to the next thing, right? And what was not obvious from listening to the clip is the lobby that these folks were at, you know, all this was going on at, it was already a busy place. So there's already a low level of stress anyway. Then the Drano guy - all right? - that ratchets up the tension. So that - and so the guard is distracted. And now, Robert Redford comes in and adds another layer. And it's like, oh, my goodness, I - just get these guys out of here. I'm going to let them in 'cause I don't care anymore, you know? 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. It also strikes me that I think probably the thing that this guard deals with the most is boredom. Right? 

Rick Howard: Yeah. Right, right. 

Dave Bittner: And then there's rarely anything like this that happens. So when something like this happens, the guard is really not conditioned to deal with it - right? - because it happens so infrequently that you'll have someone ratcheting up the tension on you like this. I remember seeing this movie. I'm pretty sure I saw this movie in the movie theater when it came out. And this is the most memorable scene to me. When I think about the movie "Sneakers," for some reason, this is the first scene that pops in my mind because of how... 

Rick Howard: Interesting. 

Dave Bittner: ...Just how well done this social engineering is in this particular case. And I guess it's one of those things I - it stayed with me throughout my life as I, you know, entered the professional world and started making my way in and out of secure buildings. Having this in the back of my mind as I went through all the time, it just - it reinforced what a great technique this is to do that. 

Rick Howard: I taught computer science many years ago, and we use another clip from the movie when the two - the bad guy and the good guy go after each other in a big dialogue scene. The bad guy talks about how information is the new money. This is early '90s, right? This is before Amazon, before bitcoin, before any of that. Right? And we were all - we were using that as the example that says this is the beginning of a big change in the world. So I love that - I love the movie because of that. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. It's a great one for sure. And as you mentioned, if you're not familiar with the work of Sidney Poitier, this is a great introduction to his library of work and just there's so many really good actors in this film. It's so - to me, it's... 

Rick Howard: Oh, it's just loaded. It's loaded. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: It's a winner for - yeah. It's a winner from start to finish. Even if you haven't seen it in a while, it's worth revisiting. It's a really good film. 

Rick Howard: I did watch it just recently for - to get ready for this show. And the other thing that stuck out at me was Robert Redford owns a penetration testing company in the 1990s. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: Right? So this is before there was cybersecurity, right? And this made it very sexy for a young Rick Howard to get into the, you know, security business. I said, man, if Robert Redford can do this, I want to get into that, too. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Yeah. Have either of you guys ever been in a situation where you've had to talk your way into a place like this for, you know, just because - I'm thinking mostly for convenience because it's the easiest thing to do. I know, Rick, you have your famous 9/11 story, but... 


Rick Howard: I have an amusement park trick, right? We did this right when the "Harry Potter" ride was opening down at Universal. And we learned early that the line to get in to the ride was not the ride line - excuse me. It was the line for the lockers to store your stuff. So if you just walked past the line and into the gift shop, you could walk right into the line. So it's not quite faking my way in, but I - my daughter and I definitely social engineered our ways into the front of the line. 

Dave Bittner: How about you, Joe? 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. I had to talk my way into backstage at a Metallica concert once. 

Rick Howard: Oh, nice. 

Joe Carrigan: I was supposed to be there, though. I actually had an appointment to interview the band because I was - in college, I was actually on a radio, you know, heavy metal radio show. And I had an appointment to interview Jason Newsted, who was the bass player at the time. And when I got there, I'm like, I'm Joe Carrigan, I'm here to interview Jason Newsted. And they said, you're not on the list. And I was like, we're going to make this happen (laughter). And I don't remember exactly how I got in. I just said, listen, I'm from this radio station up in western Maryland, and we're going to - we have an appointment to interview Jason. And we brought the recording equipment. Here's my co-host. We're both here. And sure enough, we got in. And we got to sit down... 

Rick Howard: Did you have a Barnes and Noble ID card? That's what I want to know. 

Joe Carrigan: No. I didn't. 


Dave Bittner: A frequent bagel buyer card? 

Joe Carrigan: You know, the record companies were like - treated college radio like garbage, of course. Because, you know, first off, they treated a lot of radio like garbage. Or at least they did. I don't know how it is now. When you have these massive radio companies, you don't have independent radio companies anymore. But, you know, it was - that wasn't the only time that happened to me. You know, I would drive from western Maryland down to the Washington, D.C., area, which was like a three-hour trip. And it would - eventually, it got to the point where I just stopped doing it. You know, they say, hey, you want to go to the concert? I'm like, no. I don't want to wait outside while the guy at the gate tells me I can't get in. I don't want to do that. No. 

Dave Bittner: Right. Right. You know, I have done this before. But actually, in my family, the master at this is my wife. She just has... 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. My wife is very good at it, too. 

Dave Bittner: She has a knack. I have witnessed her on more than one occasion talk her way into Disney World. 

Joe Carrigan: Really? 

Rick Howard: Wow. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: That's impressive. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. She just - you know. Now, to her advantage, she did a Disney College program when she - you know, back in the day. So she knows a lot of the lingo. But I've seen her with both customer service people and the people at the gate just, you know, kind of do a Jedi mind trick on them. And they just let her in. 

Joe Carrigan: How long... 

Rick Howard: She's my new best friend. 

Joe Carrigan: How long does it take her to do this? Is this something she walks up, she says a secret code word to them, and they let her in? Or did she have to spend, like, two or three minutes talking to them? 

Dave Bittner: A couple of minutes She has a story. I mean, she - you know, she knows what she's doing. She establishes rapport. She, you know, drops a few words that they - that only people on the inside would likely know and explains what's going on and why they should let her in. And... 

Rick Howard: Do they bring - did she bring a River Phoenix-like character with, you know, 36 cases of Drano? 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) That's me. Right. I'm the jerk at the other turnstile who's saying, hey, come on. You're stopping up the line here. I paid good money to get in this park. Come on. You know, that's - yeah. That's my job. So... 

Joe Carrigan: My kids are right behind me and they're crying. They want to go in. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Absolutely. We got to see Mickey Mouse, and we've got to do it by noon. All right, well, gents, good show this week, fun clips. And of course, for our listeners, we would love to hear from you. If you can think of some great clips from movies that you'd like us to review here on our "Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies" show, send it to us. You can email us at hackinghumans@thecyberwire.com. 

Dave Bittner: Thanks to 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. 

Joe Carrigan: I'm Joe Carrigan. 

Rick Howard: And I'm Rick Howard. 

Dave Bittner: Thanks for listening.