James Bond and the futility of technical access controls

| Comments (9) | Misc SYSSEC
OK, so Mrs. Guesswork and I just finished watching Casino Royale and something bugging me. (spoilers after the jump).

Bond is in this poker tournament playing for $150 MM. The money is being held in escrow by a swiss bank. At the beginning of the tournament, each player enters their password into this briefcase-keypad-terminal-crypter thingy held by said banker. At the end of the tournament, the winning player enters his password and the destination account and the bank transfers the money into that account. After Bond wins, the villain (Le Chiffre) kidnaps him and the Bond Girl (Vesper Lynd) so that he can torture the account number out of her and the password out of Bond.

How does this make any sense at all? First, why does Le Chiffre need the account number? That's where Lynd wants the money to go! He wants the money put in his account and Lynd doesn't know that number. Second, why does he need the password? Remember that any one of the players could have won, so they all have passwords. What controls who gets the money is that the banker only lets one of them transfer the money out of escrow. Wouldn't it be much simpler to kidnap the banker and force him to hand over the money? He's not a secret agent so he's probably a lot easier to kidnap and threaten than Bond is. Moreover, if Le Chiffre shows up with Bond's password and asks that the money be put in his account, why would the banker allow that? Clearly something is fishy, so Le Chiffre will probably have to threaten him anyway. Why not keep things simple and start with the banker.

I should mention that when later the banker shows up to complete the real money transfer with Bond and Lynd enters the wrong account number, that does make sense. She needs the banker to accept the transfer and needs Bond to authenticate it. It makes sense, that is, except for the password, which is still pretty pointless, unless your theory is that after you win, someone else is going to pose as you and have the money transferred into your account. A far simpler system would be that when you register for the tournament you give them the account number where you want your winnings to and have the subsequent transfer happen automatically.

9 Comments

I just finished reading Fleming's original book, having seen neither Casino Royale (or the TNG episode of that name, for that matter). I wondered how much they were going to change.

In the book, Bond has a winner's check for ~40 MM francs that he has hidden. When captured (Vesper is used as bait), Bond insists that the check wouldn't be of any use to Le Chiffre since it's written to him. But Le Chiffre insists that he'll be able to convince the bank to cash the check that Bond graciously signed over after losing a rematch.

They also play baccarat, an understandable change.

I just finished reading Fleming's original book, having seen neither Casino Royale (or the TNG episode of that name, for that matter). I wondered how much they were going to change.

In the book, Bond has a winner's check for ~40 MM francs that he has hidden. When captured (Vesper is used as bait), Bond insists that the check wouldn't be of any use to Le Chiffre since it's written to him. But Le Chiffre insists that he'll be able to convince the bank to cash the check that Bond graciously signed over after losing a rematch.

They also play baccarat, an understandable change.

Having experience of Swiss banks when I lived in Switzerland, their security is nowhere near so impressive. I moved my pension to the USA using a single fax, there was no real security.

I thought the business with the cheque rather contrived when I first read it, surely the casino would have a facility for transferring the money to the bank directly. The casino would keep the cheque and deposit it with the local bank next morning which would then forward it via their correspondent banking relationship with Paris.

Bond receives his money from HMG via wire, why can't he return it by wire?

The film is even more contrived, there really is no reason for the messing about, the participants give a bank account number at the start, the proceeds are paid into the winner's account. Vesper embezzles the cash by giving Bond the wrong account number.

re-reading, I think you have the plot mistaken.

There are two sets out after Bond in both the book and the film: Le Chifre and SMERSH (SPECTRE in the film).

Le Chifre needs the cash to pay off SMERSH. He does not know that SMERSH are already after him. That is why he needs the code from Lynd.

SMERSH kill Le Chifre, in the film they then attempt to take the money from Bond. In the book the epilogue is rather long winded and I thought unsatisfactory.

A few corrections to/elaborations on the above, regarding the original book:

- Le Chifre needs the money because he's embezzled from the French Communist Party and they're on to him.

- SMERSH is simply the Comintern's assassination team, sent to kill him for his perfidy.

- He's hoping that he can make the money back at the casino and reimburse the Party, and Bond's job is to make sure he can't, so that both Le Chifre and the Communist Party will be engulfed in scandal.

- The point of the epilogue is to explain Bond's (further) descent into cold, heartless cruelty and cynical distrust of women.

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