Zero Days (2016) Poster


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Well-Done, Disturbing Documentary
TheExpatriate70018 August 2016
Zero Days is an important documentary devoted much needed attention to the issue of cyberwarfare, focusing on a case study of the Stuxnet attack. It provides a behind the scenes take on the discovery and the development of the virus, as well as the political developments that caused it to spiral out of control.

Alex Gibney does a good job of explaining the technical aspects of the computer virus, as well as the political context that spurred the United States and Israel to develop the computer virus. He assembles a good cast of interviewees from various perspectives on the issue. Although Gibney has a definite viewpoint, he gives both sides of the question a hearing.

Although I had previously watched news coverage dealing with Stuxnet, this documentary goes far more in depth, making good use of inside sources within the NSA. In particular, Gibney examines the split that emerged between the United States and Israel over the use of the virus, ultimately culminating in a near disaster. The film provides a disturbing warning of how the American and Israeli governments have potentially opened a Pandora's box.

This film is important viewing that should be seen by everyone interested in current events or concerned over the implications of American foreign policy.
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An Incredible Insight Highlighting the Dangers, Complexity and Fragility of International Cyber Warfare
WING MAN8 July 2016
The new weapons of warfare (specifically computer viruses) and the climate of secrecy and legality, in which such weapons are used are excellently portrayed in this documentary. Experts of high standing from both the intelligence and cyber security communities have been interviewed and their insights and opinions wonderfully woven together to tell the story of the most complex stealth- like computer virus to have targeted very specific critical infrastructure to date, aka 'The Stuxnet' virus This documentary covers new ground in documentary film making and uses the Stuxnet virus as a platform to explain many of the complexities, secrecy and politics involved with international cyber warfare and the dangers and to some extent morality of it. Essential informative viewing without doubt!
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Informative and slightly political documentary
zafar1420079 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This film details Stuxnet as a phenomenon. It does a good job in deliberating about its ramifications and the situations that fomented it. Although the claims it makes cannot truly be verified, it does give you the general idea about the alleged attack.

I would say there was a political angle to the telling of the tale, but the movie drives home the point that Stuxnet was the primer to the era of cyber warfare of this century. We get to see the dramatization of the 'predicament' of the Bush administration, the sepia tinted Ahmadinejad speeches (which should have been subtitled in English, but were not), and the fictional NSA agent who tells us the role Israel and the US supposedly played in the story. In the end it tries to give out a moral message that all war is bad, more weapons just mean more calamities waiting in the wings, and secrecy around a weapon is the first step to let it run amok.

Overall, it was an informative and a slightly political documentary. Definitely worth a watch.
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Straightforward Stuxnet documentary - chock full of info
steven-leibson9 July 2016
This documentary about the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran's uranium centrifuges tries to get at the truth about who was behind the attack. The movie shows interviews with a lot of high-ranking people who either won't talk or who will only comment about very public information. The facts are that Stuxnet was a large and very sophisticated computer virus, ultimately capable of infecting any Windows PC but it only activated inside of very specialized equipment: one brand of programmable logic controllers attached to a very specific configuration of machines. The target pattern matched Iran's uranium enrichment facility.

The movie's point is that, like the Trinity atomic test in New Mexico in 1945, Stuxnet has let another genie out of the weapons bottle. This genie is cyber weapons that can strike anywhere on the planet essentially in an instant.

If that makes you nervous, then the movie has met the filmmaker's objective.
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Useful material to start discussion about "cyber warfare". Unsure it will reach out to politicians and other non-IT people. Will probably shoot over everyone's head
JvH4813 July 2016
Saw this at the Berlinale 2016, where it was programmed as part of the official Competition section. I have to start with a full disclaimer, by confessing that information security has been my full time occupation for at least 25 years. As such it was not my intention to learn something new when viewing this documentary about the infamous Stuxnet worm, jointly developed by Israel and US, targeting Iranian reactors and obstructing the production of nuclear material. Yet I'm very interested in each and every vehicle (movie, book, newspaper article, whatever) to make non-IT people aware of the issues at hand, if only to provide material for an open debate about the pros and cons of "cyber warfare" with much wider implications than the average layman realizes.

As observed with previous movies about IT-related issues (WikiLeaks, Snowden, Steve Jobs etcetera) it is very difficult to sit it through while being (like myself) someone who worked in IT all his life. We saw numerous fragments of Assembler, flashing lights from network equipment, heavily populated cable bundles, and many screens showing various sorts of abracadabra, all supposedly intending to look technical for an average layman. Another problem is that several talking heads ducked when asked specific questions about Stuxnet, the latter being the main topic of this movie. Most of them had the usual excuse *Even when I knew about it, I cannot elaborate". Luckily, we heard not once the excuse "I can tell you about it but after that I have to shoot you", usually intended as a humorous escape from hot questions without appearing offensive or overly defiant. Several high ranking officials only wanted to speak out in general terms, thereby avoiding Stuxnet and other concrete projects, by explaining what they found wrong, especially about the secrecy that most found exaggerated and unnecessary. As such, their contributions were still useful, albeit not exactly touching the subject at hand.

Nevertheless, I heard a few new things I had not thought about yet. Firstly, Stuxnet was not designed to become so visible as it did. People at the NSA were furious when seeing that Israel extended v1.1 of the software to be more aggressive, making it spread and allowing it to surface, while that never had been the intention. The net result is that other countries may find justification to counter with similar software, now the US has provided for a precedent. Secondly, many people in CIA and NSA express their concerns about over-classification, preventing an open debate on future policies and rules of engagement in cyber space, like similar rules developed in the past for army, navy and air force. Cyber weapons are the fourth category, and it may take 20 to 30 years to create clear rules and policies for it. Lastly, the net effect that Stuxnet had on Iranian nuclear program, has proved to be negligible in the long run. There was a noticeable dip in the production statistics, but it triggered Iran to invest extra in centrifuges. An extra side effect was that Iran invested in cyber powers of their own, by attracting talented people on this field of expertise. As of now, it looks like they succeeded in overpowering the western world in this so-called cyber war. In other words, due to Stuxnet we lost our head start, and it is doubtful we will ever regain that.

There was one talking head with distorted voice and face, who appeared many times throughout the story. In hindsight, she was reading collected texts from several people working in NSA, CIA etcetera, all of them having useful insights on the matter but unable to come forward. Being reasonably versed in these issues, I am of the opinion that these texts sound genuine and seem to really come from people with intimate knowledge, which would otherwise be kept from the public. One example is that they internally made fun about "air gapped", the common defense against infections from the outside. They knew several ways to get over this obstacle, e.g. by infecting vendors responsible for installing and updating software in the plant, more or less working like so-called watering hole attacks. Reading these texts as done here, was an artificial but necessary addition to the documentary. In a final scene the one reading the texts revealed herself as an actress who had no personal involvement in the issues, but was effectively used as a vehicle to get this information across. During the press conference organized by the Berlinale it was explained that this was the only way to obtain and release this information, if only to protect the sources since harsh policies have been issued to deal with information leakage.

All in all, I'm not sure the message will land where it should land, namely with non-IT people who should know about the implications of "cyber warfare", having an impact on our future that cannot be underestimated. I don't think that a documentary that takes nearly 2 hours, will achieve said goal. Nevertheless, I applaud every honest attempt. The documentary is well made and tries to present a balanced view on the matter. Well made, but probably shooting over everyone's head and defeating its well-intended purposes.
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Top-Notch Documentary Thriller: Vital Implications for Everyone
Victoria Weisfeld14 July 2016
This two-hour documentary released Friday, July 8, and playing in selected theaters and streaming online, traces the history and consequences of Stuxnet, a sophisticated piece of malware unleashed on the world in 2010. Before you yawn and click away, there's an important feature of the Stuxnet worm and others like it that makes this story of vital interest to you. Stuxnet was not designed to invade your home or office computer, but to attack the industrial control systems that manage critical infrastructure. These systems make sure trains and airplanes don't crash, control car and truck traffic, maintain oil and gas production, manage industrial automation, ensure you have water to brush your teeth with and electricity to run the coffee maker, keep life-saving medical technology operating, and, of course, give you access to the internet. Cyber-attacks on these systems cause real-world, physical destruction, even widespread death. Behind the Computer Screen The Stuxnet story—still highly classified, but revealed over time—began with an effort by the United States and Israel to thwart Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons by destroying centrifuges at the country's Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The software was diabolically clever, virtually undetectable, and essentially untraceable. In theory. The fact that it was a Zero Day exploit--that is, that the attack would begin before the software problem was discovered and attempts made to fix it or shut it down--and that the Stuxnet code contained not one, but four zero day features, was remarkable. Once it was inside, it worked autonomously; even the attacker could not call it back. The Israelis, apparently, were impatient. They assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists, and they changed the Stuxnet code, and it spread. It ended up infecting computers worldwide, at which point it was no longer secret, people were looking for it, and the Russians and others found it. "Israel blew the (malware's) cover and it could have led to war," the film says. Another consequence is that the day when something similar can be unleashed on us grows ever closer. It will come from one of three sources: • Cybercriminals, in it for the money • Activists, intent on making a political point or • Nation-states seeking intelligence or opportunities for sabotage. U.S. security agencies are not complacent. While they talk publicly about our cyber-defenses, in fact, there is a large (unexamined) effort to develop offensive cyber-weapons. There are reports of an even more draconian cyber-weapon embedded throughout Iranian institutions. Warding off its activation is believed a primary reason the Iranians finally struck a nuclear agreement. Certainly it prompted the rapid development surge in Iran's cyberarmy. In putting this story together, writer and director Alex Gibney interviewed former high-ranking U.S. and Israeli security officials, analysts from Symantec who teased the code apart, personnel from Russia's Kaspersky Lab, and many others, including CIA/NSA/DoD officials unable to speak on camera. "Fear Does Not Protect Us" The documentary makes a persuasive case for who holds the smoking Stuxnet gun, but it also suggests that finding fault is not the primary issue. The climate of international secrecy around Stuxnet—and the inevitable clones that will follow—makes an open discussion about them impossible. Nor does it allow development of rational strategies for managing the risks, regardless of how urgently needed those strategies are. Cyber-risk management will never be easy, but as one of the film's experts points out, "it will never happen unless you start." The subject is "hideously overclassified," says Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and CIA. (The climate of secrecy is so extreme that even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security cyber team was unaware that Stuxnet originated across town and spent countless resources trying to track it down.) We, of all nations, need this debate, because there is no more vulnerable country in the world, when it comes to systems' connectedness. "Evil and good live side by side," says an anonymous agent of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad. Keeping secrets is a good way to prevent being able to tell one from the other.
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Important film
hot byotch14 April 2017
"Zero Days" conveys two messages. The broader one, though hardly new, bears repeating and applies as much to advances in medical science as to war. In a hypercompetitive world, it asks, when do we decide not to pursue innovation and hold back for the greater good? Has technology outrun our capacity to control it?
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A gold standard in documentary films and a very interesting story
siderite21 May 2017
Once you go beyond the automatic dislike of computer screen hexadecimals turning into beautiful 3D animations, which is the norm in all popularizing documentaries, you can see not only how interesting the story is and how well the film is done, but how much effort came into the gathering of the information in it.

This two hour film describes how Stuxnet changed the world, first from the eyes of malware researchers and how they discovered the worm and how they started to analyze it and realize how advanced it is and what it does, then goes into the political realm, describing how the US and Israel did this to Iran, then narrows down, showing not only how this was something the US did to prevent the Israelis to do even worse things, but how Stuxnet came back to bite its creators in the ass. In the end we are shown the true reality of a world in which anyone can do horrible damage with no attribution while the security institutions keep everything secret and out of public discussion and decision.

A very informative movie, filled with useful tidbits, showing the story of Stuxnet from start to end and to later consequences, interesting to both technical people and laymen alike. Well done!
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A must-watch
nobrun3 February 2017
Great documentary. Very informative and enlightening (not for the Pixar crowd). Very honest and surprisingly propaganda-free. The film maker went to great lengths to find credible, knowledgeable and highly qualified people to interview for this topic. Kudos.

"To make a documentary on such a complicated, far-reaching subject and maintain a common-sense perspective requires formidable organizational skills and a steady narrative hand to keep the movie from straying into any number of theoretical byways. It takes the imagination of a science- fiction writer to make it coherent and entertaining enough to hold your attention. Mr. Gibney has demonstrated all of these qualities..." Stephen Holden, The New York Times.
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Excellent Documentary about US Cyberwarefare and Iran Tensions
crashdebra14 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Come take a peak behind the iron curtain of the United States Government and understand a little more about the tumultuous relationship between the United States, Iran, and Israel "Zero Days," is an American film written and produced by Alex Gibney. Film was released July 8, 2016. Esquire magazine stated, "Gibney is becoming the most important Documentarian of our time."

The film takes a comprehensive look at the United States' involvement in development of a malware program, or worm, commonly known as, "Suxnet." The malware was developed at a time when the government was just beginning to: understand the looming need for a branch of the government to investigate and prevent hackers from infiltrating our country's infrastructure, economy, and government; and, to discover ways to be proactive learn how to implement a worm into an adversary's government to complete any objective. The film describes the appeal of developing hidden ways to infiltrate other governments without leaving a trace of any penetration.

Early stages of Cybercom and the NSA during the ending years of the Busch Administration were just really beginning to understand the effectiveness of cyberwarfare. In the case of, "Suxnet," the purpose of the worm was to infiltrate Iran's nuclear infrastructure to disrupt Iranian enrichment centrifuges. Interviews and media clips in the film provide an understanding of how cyberwarfare became a new department within our government. Additionally, Gibney President Obama's Executive Order to define a president's role to act as the ultimate power for approval for any acts of cyberwarfare.

For President Obama, Gibney illustrates Bush's end to the program was no real termination. The film implies Bush had to legally end the, "Suxnet," program before the end of his term. Problem arose with the Israel government, which essentially did not end their involvement. The worm inflected Iran's infrastructure, and then metastasized and grew across the globe. To prevent further issues, President Obama issued an executive order which would provide the sitting president to approve all acts of cyberwarfare.

The document touches upon Edward Snowden's roll and gives the audience a better understand of how our government arrived at the current Iran Nuclear Deal, and perhaps the reason behind the billion dollar payoff to the Iranian government this year (2016). I also found the document to be bipartisan and open information for all people in the United States and abroad to understand the workings of what happened and where we seem to be at today with the continual tension between Iran, Israel, and the United States.

By the end of this film, you will begin to draw conclusions as to why President Barack Obama lead us into the Iran Nuclear Deal. At this point in time, the entire world became aware of the United States involvement in the, "Suxnet." It is possible we provided a cash payout to the Iranians for a $1.3 million dollars to avoid the ongoing blow-back and retaliation of foreign governments.
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