Glengarry Glen Ross – Old Fashioned Inside Threat

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Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: Nigel Stanley

I had the
pleasure of watching the film Glengarry Glen Ross again last night.

Released in
1992 it chronicles the struggles of 4 real estate salesmen in a down market New
York based agency. It stars Al Pacino as top salesman Roma, Jack Lemon as
Shelley “The Machine” Levene (who is parodied in The Simpsons as “Old Gil”) the
burnt out has been and Kevin Spacey who plays their weak willed sales manager.
It shows the down and dirty side of salesmanship in all its glory and includes
well trodden and corny lines such as “Always be closing”, “Coffee is for
closers” and many others too rude to quote.

Anyone that
has worked in sales will recognise characters they know portrayed on the
screen, although hopefully few in the real world are as dysfunctional.

And I do
mean dysfunctional.

The language
is very strong from the start, and the film must have one of the highest scores
for the F-word ever (it makes Gordon Ramsey look like a choir boy). The
testosterone oozes from every pore of the characters as they try and out do
each other to be the alpha male of the office.

The plot
follows the despairing salesmen (term used advisedly as there are no female
stars) as they wade through old, cold and bad leads desperately trying to close
the most business and win an Eldorado executive car. Second prize is a set of
steak knives and third prize is the sack.

For the top
salesman there is the added prize of access to the Glengarry leads which are
fresh and like gold dust to the struggling salesmen. These leads are carefully
locked away in the manager’s office and despite attempts at bribery are not
going to be released for anyone.

To cut the
story short and not reveal too much of the plot there is a staged burglary and
the leads are stolen and sold to a competitor. The police investigate but a
slip up from one of the salesmen reveals who the perpetrator is, who I won’t say
in case it spoils the surprise.

So what has
this got to do with IT security?

Not a
massive amount, I just wanted to share a brilliant film with you in case you
hadn’t seen it. There is only one computer which I saw tucked away in the
corner of the manager’s office, surrounded by heaps of paper. The fact that the
leads were stolen by an insider, in this case clearly a competent and malicious
one, shows that in those days you had to force a safe to get the leads. I would
suggest that nowadays getting to such data is probably a whole lot easier in
many organisations, and you will have more of it to download onto your USB
stick. That said, the threat we face today of an incompetent and non-malicious
user accidentally emailing thousands of leads to a competitor just didn’t
happen then. You could hardly accidentally break open a safe and hand the leads
over to a third party.

Take a look
at the film if you can. It is only 16 or so years old but it shows how IT and
office automation has moved on, even if base human instincts remain much the
same. Somehow rewriting the film and staging the theft using modern technology
such as a USB stick would be less dramatic, in my book anyway.

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