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Zero Days [Celluloid Hero]

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Zero Days (2016)

We are all pretty much screwed when it comes to online privacy. We are at risk of having our private information sold to the highest bidder; we are at risk of having our social networks hacked; we are at risk of having our passwords compromised, leading to stolen identities, wiped-out bank accounts, credit card fraud, and much more. This is all personally damaging, but what happens when a nation’s government decides to use cyber attacks against another country?

“Zero Days” focuses on the STUXNET virus (that’s just a Wiki link, it won’t give you the virus (probably)). The virus attacked nuclear power plants in Iran, causing a great deal of physical damage. When Iran investigated who could have been behind the attack, all signs pointed to something larger than some hacker sitting in his basement – this was clearly the work of an organization with the support of a nation. The obvious suspects were USA and Israel. The thing is, no one from the US or Israel has ever admitted that they created STUXNET, or that it even exists.

The documentary bounces from software experts to virus hunters to top national security leaders of various countries. It actually suffers just a bit from having too many talking heads, just too many voices to keep things straight in my head. Add in a frustrating amount of “no comment” or “I’m not at liberty to say” answers, and there were moments that genuinely drove me crazy. The director addresses this in the movie, so the frustration isn’t felt only by the audience.

There is also a good amount of care taken to explain the virus to a mass audience. I have a vague knowledge of viruses and computer security, and some of the things the experts said were going over my head, but for the most part they brought it down to a more simplistic explanation.

The most stunning thing about STUXNET is that it actually went beyond just computer software to attacking actual physical hardware. To get into my bank account is one thing, to wipe out an enemy’s intelligence files is one thing, but to actually turn off the power to an entire city, to actually shut down a water purification plant, to actually cause nuclear turbines to explode, that is what makes this so scary. And now that one attack has been launched, it has only opened the window for a counter, and a whole new front for warfare.

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On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Zero Days” gets an 8 out of 10.

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