Bruce Schneier runs this annual contest called the Movie Plot Threat contest. The idea is to poke fun at the way a lot of “security” is done, where instead of reducing real components of vulnerability like attack surface or complexity, people concoct insanely specific scenarios and then expensively harden one thing against just that scenario. What we get then is a very sexy and salable solution that reduces residual risk so little it’s well within the error bars. Many, many tax dollars will be poured into it.
So without further ado, here’s a movie plot:
Gary William Baker works for the Facilities department at LAX. He leads a typical, unremarkable, slightly sad single life.
He’s at work on 2001-09-11 at 05:30. He’s vacuuming a gate area when the first plane hits the tower at 05:47 local time. Not many people in the airport but of course they start to freak out a little.
At around 06:30 he and some passengers are huddled in a food court area waiting for official word of what to do next. An A/C unit on the roof throws a bearing and makes a bad noise for a moment, then quits. Gary goes to look at it and comes back with a story (that he might actually believe, a little) about how there was someone tampering with it and they ran away when he showed up. It was just a shadow… but no matter.
Gary becomes a minor hero to this scared little group of people. He gets on the local news for 45 seconds, but is quickly forgotten by most. Still, he has this bit of minor celebrity especially around the airport. As an institution, LAX may be a little jealous about being otherwise completely uninvolved in the events of that day. So they play along for what it’s worth.
Five years later he’s supervisor of Facilities, he’s married, he has a better car and they’re expecting a baby. All this success was seeded by his minor dollop of fame on 9/11.
There’s a five-year anniversary commemoration planned at the airport and he’s going to be a major player in it. Telling and retelling his story of course now he’s the one who fought off the band of a dozen terr’ists (he cannot pronounce “terrorist” correctly to save his life) who were going to sabotage all the HVAC at LAX and gas everyone. Or something.
OK, this needs an ending. Obviously this whole “structure” of his life will continue to inflate until it pops — because that’s how things like this work in movies. In real life, we can hope for a softer landing. But it’s no sure thing; there’s always that part of us that just wants to keep capitalizing on hero-fantasies until things fall completely apart.