Wikileaks Movie "The Fifth Estate" pirated my "Xbox Hacking" Slides

Xbox hacking has made it to the silver screen, and Felix Domke and me (Michael Steil) are movie stars! …and so are at least 14 of my presentation slides!

This a picture from the Julian Assange and Wikileaks movie The Fifth Estate (2013), starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl, directed by Bill Condon:

“Linux is Inevitable”? Sounds like something I would say. In fact, looks like a slide from my presentation at the 24th Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin in December 2007:

Coincidence? Let’s get some context. The scene in the movie is indeed set at the 24th Chaos Communication Congress (24C3), where Julian Assange (Cumberbatch) presents his vision about Wikileaks in the break between two talks. From the movie’s screenplay (ironically leaked by Wikileaks):

           I'm afraid the small conference
           rooms are all booked.

                 (off the schedule)
           What about the auditorium? It's
           empty 'til the X-Box Security talk.

At the 24C3, Felix Domke and me indeed presented Why Silicon-Based Security is still that hard: Deconstructing Xbox 360 Security on day 2 at 16:00 in the main auditorium. (In reality, Julian Assange did not present in the main auditorium, but in a workshop area.)

 To one side of the stage, THE NEXT SPEAKER sets up a few
 deconstructed X-BOX 360s beside a CORKBOARD covered with
 exhibits for his talk: 'Deconstructing Xbox 360 Security.'

To be clear: These are pictures from the movie, not actual pictures from the conference. They really deconstructed an Xbox 360 for the movie!

 Daniel, also on stage, watches as Julian pulls out a WAD of
 TWINE, moves to the corkboard.

 The X-Box guy looks up, CONCERNED, as Julian wraps the twine
 around a PUSH PIN holding up part of the X-Box exhibit,
 STRINGING THE TWINE to another pin holding up another part.

 Julian POINTS to the two pins and the twine. ILLUSTRATING.

           Two people and a secret. The
           beginning of any conspiracy, of all
           corruption. As it grows...

 Daniel watches, RIVETED, as Julian STRETCHES the twine to
 another pin. And another. And another...

           More people... and more secrets.

 ensnaring more of the exhibit in his web. It's MESMERIZING.

           But. If we can find one moral man,
           one whistleblower...

 Julian focuses on a PIN at the CENTER of his web of twine.

           Someone willing to expose these
           secrets --


           That man... can topple the most
           repressive of regimes.


                       X BOX GUY
           Was zur hoelle!

           And there's the problem.

                       X BOX GUY
           Otto, my talk is in ten minutes.

 The X-Box guy, PISSED, looks to Otto who's with a CUTE

In the movie, the “Xbox Guy” actually shouts “What the hell!” with a German accent.

I assume the person with the voltmeter is supposed to be Felix, and the angry German with the long hair (called “Game Console Hacker” in the credits, played by Christoph Franken) is supposed to be me.

On the corkboard in the movie, there are about two dozen printed slides.

This is a reconstructed version created from many individual frames of the scene:

It looks like the “Xbox Guy” is named “Denis Schnegg”, and the name of the talk is “Hacking Game Consoles”.

Most slides I could decipher are direct copies from slides from either our 24C3 talk, or our Google Tech Talk in 2008. Here are the screen captures of the slides in the movie, and the corresponding slides from our talks:

1 24c3, slide 6
2 Google, slide 6
3 24c3, slide 8
4 24c3, slide 7
5 Google, slide 24
6 Google, slide 26
7 Google, slide 28
8 Google, slide 36
9 Google, slide 8
10 Google, slide 9
11 Google, slide 15
12 Google, slide 11
13 Google, slide 14
25 24c3, slide 2

For reference, here are the full presentations the scene in the movie is based on:

Why Silicon-Based Security is still that hard: Deconstructing Xbox 360 Security (24C3)

The Xbox 360 Security System and its Weaknesses (Google TechTalk)

And since the producers of the movie consider it fair use to copy 14 of my slides without giving me credit, it must also be fair use to quote the scene of the movie here:

If you manage to decipher more slides, please post a comment.

P.S.: This dialog was cut from the movie:

           Look at them. Useless idiots,
           cracking X-Boxes, building antennae
           out of Pringles cans, probably
           spending all their free time
           reading Neuromancer and playing
           Call of Cthulhu. What a waste.

10 thoughts on “Wikileaks Movie "The Fifth Estate" pirated my "Xbox Hacking" Slides”

  1. Hey, I think game console security is very important. Outside of military applications, it was one of the few places tamper resistance mattered.

    Glad to see you posting again. Drop me an email as I’d enjoy catching up.

  2. Very interesting! Thank you for sharing. Something similar happened to us here in the UK.

    I did not watch The Fifth Estate (I objected in giving the producers my money) other than some snippets, the trailer at the time it came out but of course I read the WL analysis of the leaked script and I decided to take action. Myself and other friends who support WikiLeaks and Julian Assange did a modest protest against the film by peacefully distributing flyers outside the main theatre at Leicester Square on the 11th of October 2013 & But in January 2014 the film was leaked on line and I watched parts of it. During the last 5 minutes of the film the original supportive action we took outside the Ecuadorian Embassy when FM Patinio visited JA in the Embassy in Summer 2013 was incorporated in the film without asking for our permission. The clip shows people holding posters I had printed with letters forming the phrase ‘Free Assange’. It only lasts a few seconds but most people can be clearly identified. Neither Dreamworks nor anyone else asked our permission for our supportive action to appear in The Fifth Estate, a Hollywood movie, making money by smearing Assange and WikiLeaks. I have gone round to as many of the people as I could and asked them, no one would have given permission to collaborate with the film makers. This is the short video I had quickly created at the time of the action and here is a still of our action from The Fifth Estate.

    So, YOU ARE NOT ALONE in being taken advantage by these people who have no morals. We acted in support of WikiLeaks and our action was used to give the appearance of realism, like in a docu-film, used to propagate against the people we support creating cultural bias against them.

    I went to see my local Citizens Advise Bureau here in the UK who was ignorant of the law in such matters. The only thing they said was that In the UK apparently there is no protection of your image being used by photo journalists if you are in a public setting. I contacted about five different lawyers specialising in US law (as the producers are US based, US law can be applied) to ask if we had any rights in requesting the images are removed. I was advised that the producers should have had permission to use the material if done so in a commercial way for profit (obviously a Hollywood movie is a commercial venture) and not for purely educational or newsworthy reason. But, I was also advised that the best way to proceed was to apply to copyright my posters (preposterous) and pursue the matter under intellectual property law. I did not take any further action due to the cost and effort involved but this experience has left me thinking that the laws are made to protect commercial interests mostly. It also confirmed my original idea that the makers of The Fifth Estate placed no value on being honest and truthful but were there to use people and a story for their own agenda. The Fifth Estate has been shown in over 150 countries around the world, had a DVD made out of it. Dreamworks, and the authors of the books the film was based on Daniel Domsheidt Berg, Luke Harding, David Leigh (The Guardian) all profited from the exploitation of the WikiLeaks story, twisting it at the same time. Cumberbatch in particular has benefitted enormously by the film, his first leading role movie. In the meanwhile, Julian Assange is still in the Ecuadorian Embassy and we still go outside and stand in solidarity with him and his organisation.

    Thanks for sharing your story, I feel it aligns with ours and throws light in how such industry works.

  3. Funny how an industry so fixated on DRM uses other people’s material without the originators permission.
    Sue ’em

  4. This is not only your slides they took as requisites for the movie plot dude, It looks like they copy your individual personality, unmistakable apperiance and style too, the actor playing the hacker even mimics your gestures. The similarity is overhelming.

    However the movie is, as all hollywood movies, considered to be propaganda, in this particular case against wikileaks 🙂

    Someone has made a decent profit out of it.

  5. there is a precedence case:

    Ebenfalls 1997 veröffentlichte Warner Bros. den HBO-Film Hostile Waters (deutscher Titel: Im Fahrwasser des Todes) mit Rutger Hauer, Martin Sheen und Max von Sydow, welcher in Deutschland auf VHS-Kassette und DVD erschienen ist. Gegen diesen Film ging Kapitän Britanow gerichtlich vor, da von ihm keine Genehmigung vorlag, seine Person darzustellen. Er gewann den Prozess im August 2004 und bekam Schadenersatz in einer nicht genannten Höhe zugesprochen.[5]

  6. @Dan DRM 🙂

    the movie is another point of view, none of movies is not real even based on “real” characters
    don’t watch it and don’t recommend it to yours friends, poor rating will do the rest

  7. I know, 10 years to late …. BUT!

    They event copied my post it art that made it in there in like 2 frames. It was a weird year and I was plastering the whole space with different kind of post it ‘installations’ and after a bunch of mate, beer and weed we started outlining a ‘Posthörnchen’ (oldschool ccc logo) on the big window. I guess at least a bunch of (if i remember right) pink post its made it in there. The days at congress were a great time all in all.

    I guess someone got the job to replicate this very exactly and did so. In the end: They are movie guys and the whole movie people scene was scooled by ‘Mr. Robot’ in how to depict hacking in movies. The 5th estate is a movie of the before mr robot area still.

    And yes. WHAT THE FUCK!


Leave a Comment