An oral history of how the movie ‘Wargames’ inspired Ronald Reagan’s cybersecurity policies

Mel Magazine:

“Could something like this really happen?”

This was the question posed by President Ronald Reagan on June 8, 1983, to a room full of cabinet members and congressmen in the White House. As author Fred Kaplan explains in his book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, Reagan had recently viewed the movie WarGames and “he couldn’t get that movie out of his mind. At one point, he put down his index cards and asked if anyone had seen it. Nobody had… so he launched into a detailed summary of its plot.”

As Reagan recounted the film, the room full of defense experts sat uncomfortably, suppressing smirks, as the leader of the free world described to them the plot of a Matthew Broderick movie about a teenager who hacks into NORAD, thinking it’s a computer game, nearly kicking off World War III. At the conclusion of his synopsis, Reagan turned to General John Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and asked if such a thing were possible. Unsure, Vessey promised to look into it.

A week later, when Vessey returned, Reagan got his answer. Vessey said, “Mr. President, the problem is much worse than you think.”

Still a great movie that holds up well 30+ years later.