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5 documentaries anyone interested in cybersecurity should watch

By Alma Fabiani

Mar 28, 2021

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Comprehensive and engaging cybersecurity training can raise employees’ awareness by up to 13 times. As our everyday activities have blended into the digital realm, cyber resilience has also become a topic for consideration, and its bits and pieces have permeated today’s film industry, too.

Cybersecurity awareness has kickstarted the tradition of man-versus-machine blockbusters which peaked with the premiere of The Matrix in 1999. The themes of online dangers and IT vulnerabilities are still popular today, yet the genre is slowly shifting from fiction to documentary—and people may find this a bit unsettling.

“What has been depicted as the ‘future’ some twenty or thirty years ago has become commonplace today. People are used to constant innovation and utilise technological achievements to make their lives more convenient. Yet cybersecurity still lags behind, and the big screen now tries to raise awareness by depicting the other side of digital progress,” says Juta Gurinaviciute, the CTO at NordVPN Teams.

Here are 5 must-watch documentaries for anyone looking to learn more about cybersecurity and everything that revolves around it:

1. The Great Hack (2019)

The name says it all: this documentary digs into the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the organisation’s part in the 2016 US Presidential election. The British company used Facebook as a means of “political-voter surveillance,” and leveraged the collected data to influence voters, contributing to Donald Trump’s victory as well as the UK’s exit from the EU—Brexit. The movie warns about the vulnerability of personal data and how it can be used to affect social behaviour.

2. Code 2600 (2012)

Some experts suggest this documentary should be shown to children to raise their cyber awareness and educate youngsters about the threats lurking online. The picture recreates the history of computing and the internet, showing how hacking as a hobby turned into a national security concern. But compromising computer systems is only one part of the picture, the other being concerns about our private data and what malicious actors can do with it.

3. The Defenders (2018)

The documentary looks behind the scenes of major cybersecurity incidents of the last decade and introduces the people who helped to contain them. The movie unveils the hacking attempts of the London Olympics, the San Francisco transport system, The New York Times, Sony Pictures, and other victims. In these attacks, malicious actors managed to leak five movies, myriads of social security numbers, and millions of emails. By interviewing people who tried to stop the attacks, the creators of the movie reveal the secret dynamics of every data breach.

4. Zero Days (2016)

The winner of the Academy Award, multiple Emmys, and the Grammy, Zero Days is sometimes called the most important documentarian of our time. The movie focuses on the infamous Stuxnet worm, malware that compromised the Iranian nuclear reactor program. The well-researched and informative documentary tries to find out who has designed the virus and why. More importantly, it raises the question of what would happen if unstoppable malware is employed by hackers and set to roam free on the internet?

5. Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)

“If you get anything for free, you’re the product”—the popular marketing mantra goes. In exchange for private data, internet users can access free and well-designed services, from social media to productivity apps. But at what cost? As most of us don’t read the Terms and Conditions before agreeing with them, award-winning filmmaker Cullen Hoback has done the background work for us. He tries to investigate what corporations and governments are doing with users’ data and if it is possible for them to opt-out.

“Learning and education is the main way to keep up with an evolving threat landscape. In addition to formal cybersecurity training, chief security officers should employ entertaining and inclusive teaching methods. Showing your team a well-researched documentary will expand their knowledge and build awareness,” says Gurinaviciute.