Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies 2.20.22
Ep 7 | 2.20.22

Hustling the hustlers.



Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) Worse than Cairo? 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) Cairo? Cairo was a day at the beach next to this. 

Dave Bittner: Hello, everyone. And welcome to a special edition of the "Hacking Humans" podcast. This is 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 our colleague, Rick Howard. He is the CyberWire's chief security officer and chief analyst. Hello, Rick. 

Rick Howard: Hey, guys. I have my Hot Tamales and my giant Big Gulp Diet Coke. I am ready to go. 


Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Perfect. 

Joe Carrigan: Hot Tamales are awesome. They're one of my favorite candies. 


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

Dave Bittner: All right. Let's get rolling here with our clips. Joe, you're going to lead things off for us this week. What do you have to share with us this week? 

Joe Carrigan: Dave, my clip comes from "The Hustle," which was a 2019 movie that was a remake of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," which, itself, was a remake of another movie from, I think, the '70s. But... 

Rick Howard: Can we have an original movie? Do we have to keep watching the same one over and over? 

Dave Bittner: No, no. 


Joe Carrigan: That's a great... 

Dave Bittner: Not anymore. 

Joe Carrigan: No. Not as long as the guys in Hollywood go, you mean I don't have to pay anybody to write this, and I can make a million dollars? I'll do it. That's the issue here. So, you know, the solution is stop going to remake movies. That's the solution. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Then they'll have to come up with new stories, but that - they'll never do that. Anyway, this stars Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in this remake. And my scene is from a scene in a casino, where Anne Hathaway is sitting at a bar, and she is dressed in a sequined dress, I guess you'd say, and she is approached by a stranger. She's in a bar in a casino, and this well-dressed guy walks in. 


Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) How much are the red ones worth? 

Jarreau Antoine: (As Bartender) One thousand. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) And the blue ones? 

Jarreau Antoine: (As Bartender) Five thousand. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) I love that game with the wheel and the ball and the numbers. I don't even really know how to play (laughter). 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) Hello. 

Joe Carrigan: She's talking about the chips in front of her - (inaudible). 


Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Hello. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) My name is Mathias Albert von Wirtinger de Klinezogen Hibenbogen Zor (ph). And you are? 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Janet. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) Janet, what an enchanting name. You're American, yes? 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Yes. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) I'm Danish. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Like the pastry? 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) Yeah. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter) Like the pastry. 


Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) An airplane. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) Yes. And why are you here? 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Oh, well, I thought I would treat myself. I just won some money in the lottery. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) Wow. How much did you win? 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Eighty-seven million dollars. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias, non-English language spoken). 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) I'm sorry. I don't speak foreign. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) Janet, I have something in my pants that I think you're going to like. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Ew. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) No, no, no. This. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Oh. 

Joe Carrigan: And he pulls out a bracelet. 


Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) This belonged to my dear mama. May I? 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Yes. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) Sadly, I have to sell it because it reminds me too much of her. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Is it valuable? 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) It's very valuable, yes - $500,000. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) I like it 'cause it's shiny. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) And you're in luck. It's for sale. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) That's crazy. Do I have enough here? How much is this worth? 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) That is a coaster. And sadly, no, you don't. But maybe you could pay the difference in another way. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) I... 

Joe Carrigan: And he puts his hand on Anne Hathaway's knee. 


Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) As do I. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Well, I have my reputation to think of. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) As do I. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) I have a boyfriend. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) As do I. 

Ingrid Oliver: (As Brigitte Desjardins) Freeze. Inspector Desjardins of Beaumont-sur-Mer Police. Get up. 

Joe Carrigan: Now somebody has walked up. 


Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) Do you take bribes? 

Ingrid Oliver: (As Brigitte Desjardins) Not you, her. She is under arrest. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) What? 

Ingrid Oliver: (As Brigitte Desjardins) Those chips were stolen from this pathetic old man. This woman is an international con artist. 

Casper Christensen: (As Mathias) No, no, no. She's just a dumb American. 

Ingrid Oliver: (As Brigitte Desjardins) No, it's true. She lured this man with the promise of a private performance of her college gymnastics routine. 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Here. 

Joe Carrigan: So she hands the chips to the old man that just walked up with the inspector. Now, here is the - she puts the bracelet in her hand, flips it from one hand to the next and hands the guy back the bracelet and is being escorted out of the bar by the inspector. 


Ingrid Oliver: (As Brigitte Desjardins) It would take... 

Joe Carrigan: And now she holds up the actual bracelet. 


Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) Call his wife. Thank you, Albert, for everything. Excellent research, Brigitte. The mark was perfect. 

Ingrid Oliver: (As Brigitte Desjardins) As you always say... 

Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) You can't cheat... 

Joe Carrigan: And she's doling out money now to the inspector and the old man. 


Anne Hathaway: (As Josephine Chesterfield) I shall see you in a few days. Au revoir. 

Joe Carrigan: And she's walking out of the casino with the bracelet in hand. So it's a simple scam, where she is baiting somebody in, pretending to be very naive, asking questions loudly at the bar. What are these things worth? I like the game with the wheel and the little ball. Everybody knows that's roulette, right? 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: And gets this guy to approach her and put the bracelet on her arm. Now, I will tell you this. My wife - we were talking about this before, you know, how much of a socially astute person she is. She is also a very good salesperson, and she sold jewelry. And one of the things that she would tell me is, when you're selling jewelry, you keep handing the jewelry to the people that you're trying to sell it to. You keep putting it on their finger, putting it on their wrist - right? - you know, if it's a bracelet. Obviously, you don't put a ring on someone's wrist. But anyway, she would say, keep it - keep them touching it, which is what this guy is trying to do with Anne Hathaway here. Then, while Anne Hathaway has the bracelet on, the person - the inspector - the fake inspector and the fake victim come up, and they escort Anne Hathaway out after she does a little palming of the bracelet and replacing it with a fake. 

Dave Bittner: Right. A switcheroo. 

Joe Carrigan: So it requires - there's a little bit of research that went into it. She had to know what the bracelet was going to look like so she could make a fake. And then it's apparently a very good fake, so he won't even notice it, and maybe his wife will notice it at some point. 

Dave Bittner: Now, do we think that the guy who came up with the bracelet originally was also a scammer? Was she scamming a scammer? 

Joe Carrigan: I think he was just trying to have an interlude with her, if you would... 

Dave Bittner: Oh, I see. 

Joe Carrigan: ...And maybe take the money. I don't know. 

Rick Howard: I think he is a scammer, but he is not on the same level as Anne Hathaway. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: He's - I would put him in the amateur category. 

Dave Bittner: Because they - I guess they seem to think that the bracelet has value, has legitimate value. It's not some piece of costume jewelry or anything 'cause Anne Hathaway's... 

Joe Carrigan: Right, right. They - or they wouldn't steal it. 

Dave Bittner: Right, right. 

Joe Carrigan: Anne Hathaway is the Michael Caine character in this movie. 

Dave Bittner: I see. 

Joe Carrigan: So she is the really advanced, super good and smooth and well-refined con artist in this movie. 

Dave Bittner: I see. I see. And so the inspectors are in on it. The fake police are in on it. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. Yep. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. 

Rick Howard: What I liked about this is - first of all, I'm a huge fan of Anne Hathaway, OK? I think she's fabulous, right? 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. I like Anne Hathaway, too. 

Rick Howard: And the way she handles this, you know - we were talking before the show started that the bad guy here who's trying to scam her assumes that women are not that smart. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: And Anne Hathaway plays into that - like, five or six one-liners in that one - they're all comedy, right? But it's like, you know, the - is that the pastry, you know, from the Danish guy? 

Joe Carrigan: Right (laughter). Like a pastry. 

Rick Howard: And, you know, then here's the coaster that she thought was... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: ...Chips from the, you know - and just one after the other after the other. That convinces the... 

Dave Bittner: What brought you here? An airplane. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. An airplane. Is that a great line or what, right? And she looks so innocent doing all that. And so the guy comes up and tries to take advantage of her. So I really like that part. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: It's a good scene in an OK movie. 

Dave Bittner: Oh, is that right? 

Rick Howard: Oh, I would debate you there. This is not a great movie (laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: OK. Well, I was being kind, Rick. 

Dave Bittner: I always wonder when people try to remake great movies - like, 'cause I think "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is a great movie. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. It is. 

Dave Bittner: And so why - what are you trying to prove here? 

Rick Howard: What - yeah, what are you bringing to the table here, right? Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Right, right. 

Rick Howard: I put this movie in the same bucket as other movies we've seen during the pandemic where, you know, big-time celebrity actors go off to exotic locations and make really dumb movies. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: But it's their chance to have a vacation and get paid, right? So, you know... 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. And it made - it was remarkably profitable. So you're going to see more like this. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. All right. Well, that's certainly a fun scam. I have the other clip this week, and my clip is from the 1994 action comedy film "True Lies." 

Joe Carrigan: Oh, I love this movie. 

Rick Howard: This is one of my favorite movies ever. 

Dave Bittner: This is a... 

Rick Howard: It's a good one. 

Joe Carrigan: It's not - I mean, it's not a great - you know, it's a fun, fun movie. 

Rick Howard: Fun movie. Yeah, fun. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: So this movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, I would say both of them at the peak of their powers - right... 

Rick Howard: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: Absolutely. Yep. 

Dave Bittner: ...In this movie - directed by James Cameron, also at the peak of his powers. And in this movie, Arnold and Jamie Lee play a married couple whose relationship is a bit in the doldrums. Jamie Lee's character is named Helen. She's a legal secretary in Washington, D.C., and she thinks that her husband, Harry, who's played by Schwarzenegger, is just a mild-mannered salesman, but in fact, he is a secret government agent. 

Joe Carrigan: A super spy, if you will. 

Rick Howard: A James Bond kind of guy. Yeah, yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. He sort of - yeah, he's a U.S. James Bond. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: Now, there's a scene early on in the movie where Helen is having lunch alone in a nondescript restaurant, kind of a dive sort of place. And we see this character who's played by Bill Paxton. 

Joe Carrigan: Who I love. 

Rick Howard: The late, great Bill Paxton. Come on. 

Joe Carrigan: Bill Paxton was one of the most underrated actors in his lifetime. He was really good. 

Rick Howard: Really good. I mean, his "Aliens" - come on. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. That was awesome. 

Dave Bittner: Game over, man. Game over. 

Joe Carrigan: Game over. 

Dave Bittner: So Bill Paxton plays this character. We later find out his name is Simon, and we see him sizing her up, and he rushes over to her table, breathless. He puts down a briefcase, and he tells her it's a matter of national security and life and death for her to protect the briefcase. And he runs off, and she's flustered by this. She's not sure what to make of it. She takes the briefcase, and she opens it, and inside she finds plane tickets for a foreign country, money from several different countries - currency, passports. And so she believes that Simon is a secret agent. Now, later, as the movie goes on, we discover that Simon is not a secret agent. He's actually a slimy used car salesman. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter) Wait, is that redundant? Is that redundant? 

Dave Bittner: And he's spinning this tale. Well - so he's spinning this tale with Helen to try to romance her. So the scene I'm sharing today, this is a scene where they meet later. They're in another sort of dive-y restaurant. And he is continuing to take her down this pathway to try to bring some excitement into this poor, lonely woman's life. So this scene starts off. We're in that same sort of dive restaurant. Looks like a Chinese restaurant, something like that. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: Nothing fancy about this place is all - at all. This is a place where you'd, you know, you'd grab a quick lunch - that sort of place. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: And Helen... 

Joe Carrigan: Wood paneling on the side. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Helen is walking into the restaurant, and Simon, the Bill Paxton character, is already seated there. 


Bill Paxton: (As Simon) You sure you weren't followed? 

Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) No. I mean, I kept looking behind me like you taught me, but I didn't see anyone. 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) OK. It's just that... 

Rick Howard: Like you taught me. 


Bill Paxton: (As Simon) If I get a signal, I may have to leave suddenly. 

Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) I understand. 

Rick Howard: I love how he lowers his voice into that lush, you know... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: ...Secret agent voice. 


Bill Paxton: (As Simon) I feel bad about bringing you into all this, but you're the only one I can trust. 

Joe Carrigan: It's Tom Arnold, too, probably in his best performance as well. 

Rick Howard: True. Yeah. 


Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) Were you out on a mission? 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) We say op - covert operation, and this one, well, got a little rough. 

Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) Worse than Cairo? 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) Cairo? Cairo was a day at the beach next to this. 

Tom Arnold: (As Albert "Gib" Gibson) This guy's a spook. 

Dave Bittner: So, Arnold and his partner are listening in on this from outside. 


Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) Yes. 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) Sometimes a story is a mask for a covert operation. See two men killed in a restroom and two unidentified men in a running shootout, ending at the Marriott? 

Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) That was you. 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) You see, you're very good. You recognize my style. You're a natural at this. 

Tom Arnold: (As Albert "Gib" Gibson) The guy's a fake, man. He's taking credit for our moves. 

Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) What happened? 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) Hardly worth talking about. Two of them won't bother me again. 

Tom Arnold: (As Albert "Gib" Gibson) Unbelievable. 

Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) You chased one? 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) Something came over me. I just had to nail this guy, no matter what the risk. Pretty hairy - I thought he had me a couple of times, but I really can't take credit. 

Jamie Lee Curtis: (As Helen Tasker) Well, why not? 

Bill Paxton: (As Simon) It's the training. It shapes you into a lethal instrument. You react in a microsecond without thinking. 

Tom Arnold: (As Albert "Gib" Gibson) I'm starting to like this guy. Well, we still got to kill him. I mean, that's a given. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter) We still got to kill him. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Right. 

Joe Carrigan: That is... 

Dave Bittner: So that's... 

Joe Carrigan: I can't think of anything that Tom Arnold did where he had a better performance than this. This was... 

Rick Howard: What? "McHale's Navy" is not his best performance? I don't know. 

Dave Bittner: No. I mean, I'm with Joe. I think this part was perfect for Tom Arnold... 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: ...As sort of the sidekick to - the guy who is in the van while Arnold is out doing all of the action, adventure kind of stuff. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. I mean, he was really, really good in this movie. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. He was. 

Joe Carrigan: I mean, everybody was good in this movie. This was - this is - I said earlier that this may not have been - I mean, this may not be, like - go down in recorded history as, like, one of the greatest movies, like "Ben-Hur" or something like that. But this is probably one of the best movies ever made in terms of just how enjoyable it is to watch. I could sit down... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: I've seen this movie probably 20 times. I could sit down and watch it again and still enjoy it. It's a good movie. 

Rick Howard: Lot of rewatchable scenes like this one. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. It's a lot of fun. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. Like this one. 

Dave Bittner: It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun. So what do we make of this? Let's unpack here exactly what Simon, our Bill Paxton character, is doing here to Helen. 

Rick Howard: Here's my take, right? First - when I first saw this, I was saying, oh, man, this guy's going to have a lot of trouble to seduce, you know, a woman. And I said, you know, that's probably, you know, not very likely. And then, you know, it's Jamie Lee Curtis, my all-time woman crush. All right, so maybe all those things he did is worth it. That's all I'm saying. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Well, you know, later in the movie, she has a little scene where she does some dancing and, I think, bolsters your point of view there, Rick. 

Rick Howard: Yeah, yeah, totally the reason to watch the movie. 

Joe Carrigan: That's right. That's a great scene. I mean, even in this scene, they've made Jamie Lee Curtis look a little frumpy. And even though she's looking frumpy, she's still a gorgeous woman. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: And I've - you know, I've always been a fan of her. Same thing with Rick, she's always been one of the - I've always been a big fan of Jamie Lee Curtis. 

Rick Howard: I prefer her knives - is it "Knives Wide Out" (ph)? What is that movie with... 

Joe Carrigan: "Knives Out." 

Rick Howard: "Knives Out." 

Dave Bittner: "Knives Out," yeah. 

Rick Howard: That version of Jamie Lee Curtis, that is - that's right in my wheelhouse. 

Dave Bittner: OK (laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: I haven't seen that one yet. I do want to see it, though, 'cause there's a bunch of people in that movie I like. But I haven't seen that one. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. That's another good one. 

Joe Carrigan: But here we see - you know, what's interesting in this is that there is a - you know, this is just a ploy, you know, a low-level ploy. You know, like from the "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" that we talked about before, it's the guy that's just trying to get - you know, he's actually just trying to get Jamie Lee Curtis' character in bed, right? 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: It's just Bill Paxton trying to... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: ...Trying to hook up with a bored housewife. 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: And later in the movie, there's an interaction between Bill Paxton and Arnold Schwarzenegger where Bill Paxton is saying, like, I do this all the time. I do this to hundreds of women all the time. He's bragging about it. 

Dave Bittner: Right, right. 

Joe Carrigan: But, you know, what's interesting is there's a lot of stuff in here that's kind of - would be applicable to other romance scams - you know, the international man of mystery kind of thing. It's - this is a comedic representation of it, but it's - it still has a lot of basis in reality. You know, you get somebody who's bored and lonely, maybe in a marriage that's falling apart, and they become a prime opportunity or a prime target of opportunity for a scam like this. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah, yeah. All right. Well, that is my clip for this week. I think we are all in unanimous agreement that "True Lies" is a lot of fun. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: If you have not seen this film, it's worth... 

Joe Carrigan: You are missing out. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. It's worth checking out. It has good action, good comedy - perfectly cast film as far as I'm concerned. 

Rick Howard: And gentlemen, all I can say to you is (impersonating Bill Paxton) Cairo. 


Joe Carrigan: (Impersonating Bill Paxton) Cairo was a walk in the park. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. He just - he really pours it on, doesn't - Bill Paxton is great in this. He's really great. 

Dave Bittner: All right. Well, those are our clips. We will have links to those, the YouTube clips, if you want to check that out and watch along with us. 

Dave Bittner: That is our show. We want to thank all of you for joining us. 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. 

Joe Carrigan: I'm Joe Carrigan. 

Rick Howard: And I'm Rick Howard. 

Dave Bittner: Thanks for listening.