Jason Bourne Is a Cool Spy Movie that Gets Technology All Wrong
Article by George Norman
On 29 Jul 2016
Jason Bourne, the fifth movie in the spy action thriller series, just hit theaters. I saw it and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed. It got precisely what I was expecting: lots of spy stuff and tension, lots of fighting and shooting, lots of chases, and lots of ways Hollywood doesn’t get technology.

With Jason Bourne, Hollywood once again proves that it doesn’t get technology. Before I go and list all the tech things that make no sense in the movie, let me just warn you: SPOILERS AHEAD! Consider yourself warned.

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1. The hacking scene in Reykjavik

The scene: Nicky Parsons goes to a building in Reykjavík, where she uses a beat-up laptop to hack into the CIA’s database. The CIA detects the hack, but is unable to stop the download. So they detect Parsons’ location and cut the power to the whole building (but not before putting some malware onto Parsons’ USB key). With her cover blown, Parsons then sets fire to her laptop and makes a hasty retreat.

Lots of things don’t make sense here. Lots of questions come to mind.
  • How is Parsons able to hack into the database just by typing for a few seconds on her keyboard?
  • Everything’s fine until a visual glitch gives away the fact that Parsons is downloading secret files. Why?
  • Why does the CIA have a massive database of classified, years-old documents connected to the outside internet?
  • The CIA can cut power to the a building but they can’t block the download?
  • Why would you set your laptop on fire? It has been traced already, and setting it on fire isn’t a very efficient means of erasing your tracks.

2. The scene with the German hacker

The scene: Nicky Parsons is dead. The encrypted USB key with all the data she downloaded from the CIA is in Bourne’s possession. So Bourne finds Christian Dassault, a German hacker, and asks him to decrypt the data on the USB key. Dasasault plugs it into a laptop and starts decrypting it. But the malware on the key sends a beacon to the CIA. The CIA hack into Dassault’s phone, and then use it to remotely wipe the data on key that's plugged into the laptop.

Again, there are lots of things that don’t make sense here.
  • The malware activates the moment Dassault plugs in the USB key. The data on the stick is supposed to be encrypted, so shouldn’t the malware activate after the decryption? Or are you telling me the data on the USB key was encrypted but the malware wasn’t.
  • It’s clearly shown that Dassault has three firewalls. Yet the malware was able to contact the CIA undetected. And come to think of it, why was the laptop connected to the internet anyway? A paranoid hacker like Dassault wouldn’t leave it connected to the internet by default.
  • Can you really hack into a locked phone that quickly? And take down three firewalls? And then somehow connect via the phone to the laptop and remotely delete a bunch of files?
  • Instead hacking three firewalls and using a phone to connect to the laptop and delete the files, couldn’t the CIA send instructions directly to the malware? The malware had no problems bypassing the firewalls.

3. The car airbags

In one scene, "the asset" is chasing Bourne and Parsons. His cat hits a wall, and the airbags go off.

In another scene, "the asset" is being chased by Bourne. Bourne basically trashes that car, but the airbags never go off. Why? Because if they would go off, the car-chase scene would be over.

4. There’s a cancer at the heart of Deep Dream

Deep Dream is presented as a social-media company that has 1.5 billion users. Because Deep Dream’s CEO used CIA money to get started, the CIA wants to be able to spy on Deep Dreams’ users. On one hand, Deep Dream claims that it takes privacy seriously. On the other, it has a secret deal with the CIA.

The movie doesn’t bother to explain how this Deep Dream – CIA thing works. Is there a back door that they use to spy on people? And if there is a back door, isn’t it just a matter of time until it will get discovered?



Tags: movie, security, Jason Bourne
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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