The stakes were high this year when Ralph Echemendia began work on the set of Oliver Stone’s latest film, Snowden. The Miamian’s job was to fight off daily attacks from malicious hackers. After all, the movie was a biopic about Edward Snowden, perhaps the nation’s most prominent computer systems analyst, whose very name evokes the words “digital privacy.”
But to Echemendia, protecting data for a Hollywood blockbuster was business as usual.
“It was certainly a film with a lot more visibility around it and a lot of controversy around it,” he says. “But I’ve been doing this for 25 years.”
Born in Cuba, Echemendia was raised in Miami in a neighborhood near the airport. His first computer was a Commodore 64, which he and a friend used to master the art of “war dialing.” That technique, in which the computer dials random numbers to find a modem, eventually led him to a bulletin board system where he first saw a copy of the “Hacker Manifesto,” a 1986 essay that served as an unofficial guide for budding hackers.
“I never thought that hobby would become a career,” Echemendia says.
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