Data Protection Lessons from Tron

Data Protection Lessons from Tron

By Chris Brunau

Looking back at the fan-favorite film Tron, what can we learn about data protection and backup through the users of the grid?

The movie follows Kevin Flynn, a former software engineer for a computer company called ENCOM. Flynn was designing a number of video games, but eventually had them stolen by Ed Dillinger, thus catapulting Dillinger through the company to senior executive vice president, and driving Flynn out. Dillinger then creates a program known as the Master Control Program (MCP), which has run rampant and become power hungry. The MCP pulls Flynn into the virtual grid in an attempt to destroy him and the users and gain more control. The movie follows Flynn fighting the MCP and searching for evidence to prove he is the creator and take down Dillinger.

So, what exactly can we learn from it? Here a few takeaways:

-Backup your files

It may sound obvious and simple, but if Flynn had a backup of his programming data for his video game, Tron would be a very different story. Dillinger wouldn’t have been able to steal the idea and pass it off as his own, because there would be a backup, stored both locally and in Flynn’s secure cloud. With the proper backup, Flynn’s creation would be safe.

Another main component of the movie is ‘derezzing’ or killing a file, essentially the same as deleting data. The MCP uses this to get rid of programs it deems a threat. Since the MCP is rampant and self-serving, this is a major threat in the film. In terms of backup and business continuity, this can be most closely related to the deletion of data either by user error, a rogue employee, or a virus. If there was cloud backup in the grid, the ‘good’ programs would be backed up and virtualized immediately to prevent data loss. 

Image-based backup with Datto gives a better backup solution through faster file restores, image verifications and the ability to boot virtual machines.

-Don’t only store your data in a physical state

Every program’s data is stored on units known as an identity disc, which also double as weapons in the grid.

Probably not a good idea to use crucial data as a fighting object.

Regardless, if a program loses their identity disc, they are immediately derezzed or deleted. Being an 80s movie, this likely has roots in tape backup, which is an extremely outdated technology today. For various reasons, tape backup is no longer a reliable source for backup. Each program is essentially stored on one hard copy; not the best plan for business continuity.

Through Datto’s Hybrid Cloud Technology, you can protect your files both locally and in the secure cloud. If your data becomes corrupted for any reason, you can be covered.

-Adopt Open Sourcing

One of the main theme’s throughout Tron is freedom and power of the user. The protagonists of the film are all fighting for the users, while the antagonists; mainly Dillinger and the MCP, are looking to take down the user and lock them out, and keep the MCP as the all-powerful program controlling ENCOM. Even the programmers like Alan don’t have access to the program or the system ENCOM operates on. Alan, Flynn and the programs who fight for the users in the grid, are all looking to make things more free, while the MCP is doing its best to stop them.

In the virtual world of the grid, the MCP has full control over the entire ENCOM system, and either absorbs the programs it deems valuable, or sends any programs it sees as useless to the fighting games to eventually be derezzed or deleted. If programs ‘believe’ in the users, they get substandard training for the games, likely resulting in derezzing. If they renounce the users and pledge allegiance to the MCP, they will join the warriors elite of the MCP.

The MCP also infiltrates outside programs and appropriates them. In the movie it has plans to access the Pentagon and Kremlin, because it believes it can run these government entities more efficiently.

Open sourcing not only helps users, but the system as well. As Datto has recently shown, open sourcing is the new norm. In Tron, the MCP program was kept airtight by Dillinger, and for all the wrong reasons. It didn’t even allow for input from internal programmers, let alone external sourcing.

While “Tron” is clearly straight out of the 80s, its message can still be considered relevant today. Backing up data, using a hybrid solution and open sourcing are all valuable lessons, even if they come from a classic video game movie. 

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