07 Jun WarGames – Throwback Tech Thursday

The year was 1983. Margaret Thatcher was about to win a landslide victory in the British elections. NASA was preparing to send the first American woman into space, and the Cold War was in the minds of millions. It’s from the Cold War that we get today’s Throwback Tech Thursday nugget. On June 3, 1983, hacker-movie WarGames was released.

The This Day in Tech History blog reminded us of this story. Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes wrote WarGames. This 1983 Science fiction movie starred a very young Matthew Broderick as the main character, David Lightman.

David Lightman, a computer whizkid, somewhat accidentally hacks into the computer of NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command). As a result of this, he nearly starts World War III. Nominated for three Academy awards, WarGames was a huge success.

Ronald Reagan’s reaction to WarGames

Some say that this is the movie that truly brought hacking into the limelight. In fact, it is claimed that President Ronald Reagan took this movie very seriously. The story goes that he attended a meeting with with his national-security advisors as well as several congress members. Forthcoming arms talks with Russia was the subject of the meeting. However, during discussions President Reagan asked if anyone in the room had seen WarGames, which he had watched himself the week before. Nobody had seen it, so he explained what the movie was about. He then asked if such a hack would be possible. A week later, one of his security advisors, General John W Vessey, returned and said that this was totally plausible. In fact, according to the New York Times, he said, “the problem is much worse than you think.”

National Security Decision Directive 145 (NSDD-145) exists because of this. It was signed into National Policy on Telecommunications and Automated Information Systems Security in September 1984 by Ronald Reagan. According to IT Law Wiki; “NSDD-145 provided initial objectives, policies, and an organizational structure to guide the conduct of federal activities toward ‘safeguarding systems which process or communicate sensitive information from hostile exploitation.'”

If you’re yet to see WarGames, and you consider yourself a coder – perhaps it’s time to have a look! Otherwise, why not sign up to our free 5 Day Coding Challenge and see if you can code?