Getcha Popcorn Ready - Malware Goes to the Movies

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2009-05-21 Print this article Print

Security giant McAfee has is taking a novel approach in attempting to graphically illustrate the risks of hacking and malware attacks to the masses - by taking some real-world cyber-attack scenarios and turning them into short films.

Dubbed "H*Commerce: The Business of Hacking You," the six episode series walks through the hacking nightmares experienced by a handful of unlucky individuals, including an Oregon woman named Janella Spears who was victimized in of one of "the largest and most elaborate email scams on record," McAfee research communications director Dave Marcus describes in a blog post introducing the films.

Apparently Spears lost more than $440,000 via the scheme, and the horrible impact that the experience has on her family and marriage is woven throughout the series as a recurring story. It's hard to imagine anyone who wouldn't feel like their world was going to pieces after getting scammed for almost a half million dollars. You almost don't want to watch because it sounds so depressing... but, like the proverbial train wreck... something tells me I need to see more.

And rather than merely detailing the terrible strife that Spears endures as a result of her cyber-assault, the show's producers hook her up with a third-party cyber forensic expert to help extricate the victim from the scheme and get her back on her feet, at least in terms of ending the attacks on her computer. Who knows about all that money, yikes.

The series is directed by Seth Gordon, who is best known for his work on "Four Christmases," and the documentary, "The King of Kong - A Fistful of Quarters."

McAfee's Marcus explains that the title H*Commerce (or Hacker Commerce) is defined as "the business of making money through the illegal use of technology to compromise personal and business data." New episodes will be posted every two weeks for the next several months until all six episodes have aired.

"The project was originally conceived as a series of standalone episodes, each focusing on different aspects of cybercrime - such as phishing, denial of service attacks, online scams, bank scraping, and fraudulent e-mails," Marcus writes. "[But] as the film-makers dug deep into the experience of H*Commerce victims, they realized the film's focus had to be on the complex stories of real people doing normal online things, only to be horribly violated by ruthless cybercriminals."

So what about all of us abnormal Internet users?

You know, it's funny, for all the writing and reporting that we do in the cyber-security realm, we have rarely heard from the victimized as part of the overall process. And if the biggest issue we continue to struggle with is end user behavior, perhaps giving people something they can watch in the form of entertainment might be a powerful tool.

You have to think that a lot of people who might be less likely to take to the blogosphere to arm themselves with information on cyber-security might just be convinced to sit through a TV program on the matter, especially if they can relate to the people involved.

I mean, if millions of people are willing to sit through "reality" shows like "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars" you'd have to think there are at least some people out there who might find it interesting to consider how they themselves might come under attacks that could ruin their entire lives.

At least we can hope so.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

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