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Did the Movie “WarGames” Inspire Ronald Reagan?

President Ronald Reagan was once a movie actor before taking on the highest position in the United States government. Despite his political career, he was a big fan of films. But did you know that his cybersecurity policy started after watching a movie?

After watching WarGames in 1983, President Ronald Reagan asked his Joint Chiefs of Staff if the scenario in the movie could happen. The general replied a week later, stating that it was possible, the situation was even worse.

How the WarGames Movie Affected Cybersecurity

On June 3, 1983, the movie WarGames was first shown in the US theaters. The Sci-Fi thriller starred Matthew Broderick playing a young hacker who inadvertently hacked his way to the US government and almost caused a nuclear catastrophe. (Source: The Drive)

The following day, President Ronald Reagan, his wife, and a small group of his staff were at Camp David. The Reagans kept a tradition of watching movies in their Aspen home during the weekends. They watched the movie WarGames.

After the feature, Mrs. Reagan asked, could that happen, referring to the movie’s plot wherein a computer malfunction nearly led to a nuclear disaster. None of them knew, which led the President into thinking.

The following week, President Reagan posed the same question in his meeting with members of Congress and intelligence officers, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs John Vessey. No one in the room took the question seriously, but Vessey’s task was to find out for the President. Vessey’s staff forwarded the question to Don Latham, the current assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications, and intelligence.

Latham responded to Vessey’s inquiry, then relayed to the President: Yes, the problem is much worse than you think. This response led to many interagency memos, studies, and meetings that centered on cybersecurity, a term they hadn’t thought of yet then.

In 15 months, the National Policy on Telecommunications and Automated Information Systems Security, also known as NSSD-145, was born. At the time, laptops and the internet were slowly becoming available to the consumer market. NSSD-145 postulates that these technologies were highly susceptible to hostile foreign exploitation. This marked the first serious approach to Cybersecurity and Cyber Warfare. (Source: Mel Magazine)

How Did Sci-Fi Influence Reagan’s Administration?

The movie WarGames opened the eyes of the US government is starting to pave the laws for cybersecurity we all know now. But this was not the only movie that influenced Reagan’s decisions while he was President. (Source: Mel Magazine)

President Reagan was a huge science-fiction fan. He grew up reading John Carter of Mars books and liked watching movies in general since he was an actor in his earlier years. A few years before Reagan formalized NSSD-145, his administration came up with the Strategic Defense Initiative, which was fondly known as Star Wars Defense Plan.

The Star Wars Defense Plan was a defensive system based on outer space. The plan was intended to be able to deter any nuclear attack using laser battle stations. Reagan even shared this with USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, asking if aliens attack earth, will the USSR help the USA fight? (Source: Fantastic Facts)

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