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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Hollywood hits back at hackers
Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider was hit by the circulation of "hacked" previews
Hollywood is fighting back after a wave of computer hacking has exposed the industry's vulnerability.

British computer expert James Sinclair, 21, is spearheading a concerted attempt to close down security loopholes.

This is going to become a much bigger issue as the internet develops

Steven Gaydos, Variety
A spate of unofficial releases of advance trailers and in-production material - as well as memos, contracts and scripts - has shown how easy it is to penetrate the studios' computer systems.

Sinclair, the president and chief technology officer of Global Network Security Services, is assembling a coalition, including Warner Bros, MGM and the William Morris Agency to develop security standards for the film industry.

Steven Gaydos, executive director of Variety magazine, told BBC One's Breakfast: "The higher you build the wall in computer security the higher somebody jumps to get over it.

'Common practice'

"So they're doing things - and one of the things they're doing is hiring this British fellow to break into the systems to teach them exactly where the holes are.

"It's common practice to find out how porous your security actually is."

The advent of advanced computer editing systems and special effects has made the industry more vulnerable to hackers, who can enter systems using legal and freely accessible software.

"It's all done on computer - once something is on an editing bay it's there and it's available," said Mr Gaydos.

The hunger of the market for daily rushes, trailers and film clips has meant that some inside the industry are colluding to release material.

James Sinclair told Variety in an interview: "Most companies do not realize that 90% of the attacks performed on the systems they try so hard to protect are the result of inside jobs."

Mr Gaydos told the BBC that the problem is more complex than conventional piracy.

'Contract negotiations'

"There is piracy - and piracy will happen the moment you get your hand on a finished product - people will sit in a theatre and they'll videotape a movie off the screen.

"What we're talking about that's really disturbing Hollywood is to do with breaking into films in progress and taking 'dailies' - and also breaking into security on everything from deal memos to contract negotiations."

So far the problem of pirating complete films has been held in check by the technological limitations of the internet.

Each film must still be broken up into a dozen segments that need to be downloaded two hours at a time.

But Mr Gaydos warned that the film industry did not have long to address the issue of computer system security.

"They're going to keep working on security and this is going to become a much bigger issue as the internet develops and the ability to see movies and to download them quickly develops," he said.

"Right now it's very unwieldy, but with music they estimate they're losing four billion dollars a year in piracy - and film is around the corner."

See also:

18 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Hackers' hero faces piracy test case
31 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Major net security holes identified
18 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Pirates take on Hollywood
24 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Web warning centre in net attack
30 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Internet's 'very real' virus threat
20 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
White House dodges web virus
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