Errors, Failures, and Risks

The virus easily wreaks havoc on the entire internet due to its interconnectivity.

Spreading Malware

In an attempt to preserve his friendship with Vanellope, Ralph releases a virus that continuously duplicates insecurities into Slaughter Race, ultimately crashing the game. While the intent was to target only the game, the virus infiltrates the rest of the internet. This results in widespread online failure and shutdown of prominent services like Google, Amazon, and Weibo. These scenes skillfully depict the Internet as a highway for spreading dangerous viruses and malware. Similarly, in real life, virus authors often use the Internet to deploy malicious software to the general public. Symantec, a cybersecurity software company, reported that its services blocked more than 5.5 billion attacks in 2011 [1]. This number emphasizes the prevalence of malicious content on the Internet and urges users to be cautious of their visited websites. Interestingly, 61% of websites that were labeled as malicious are actually innocent in nature, but were infected by external code and have unknowingly become destructive [1]. This additional information shows that website design is not indicative of its maliciousness, so users must be attentive to other context clues. Emails are also effective vessels for viruses as studies have shown that 1 out of 10 people who receive a malicious email will click on a link in it [2]. The infamous Love Bug virus was spread through email messages containing the words “I Love You,” which lured users into activating malicious code [3]. Once the machine was infected, the virus corrupted and overwrote local files. Additionally, the virus sent itself to the first 50 people on the user’s Microsoft Outlook contact list, further expanding its reach . Overall, it affected an estimated 45 million computers, and the incident cost tens of billions of pounds in the UK alone. Among the victims were major corporations such as the World Health Organization and the Pentagon, whose operations were hindered. While the Internet is a powerful tool for finding resources and networking, its wide connectivity is a gateway to external vulnerabilities. This disadvantage is depicted in the movie as the virus infiltrates the Internet world and causes colossal damage within a few scenes. These malicious viruses also exist in real life, as demonstrated by the catastrophic losses caused by the Love Bug.

Stranger Danger

Throughout the movie, Ralph and Vanellope are frequently confronted with dangerous situations because they are unaware of the dangers on the Internet. A prominent example is when they follow Spamley to his business firm, hoping to make money through playing video games. Spamley’s office is located in a rundown neighborhood, insinuating that his business is related to suspicious activities. He tasks Ralph and Vanellope to steal Shank’s car in Slaughter Race and auction it off for profit, which is illegal. However, they accepted this offer eagerly. This innocent behavior demonstrates how both protagonists do not understand the risks of meeting strangers on the Internet and following their orders, leading them to deep trouble. Ralph and Vaneloppe’s experience broadcast an important lesson to the audience because meeting online strangers is a real danger on the Internet. A study that surveyed 412 Dutch adolescents reported that 39% of them communicate with online strangers [4]. 10% of them talk with online strangers as often as to the people they are already familiar with. 6% talk more with strangers than those they know. 5% of them talk exclusively with online strangers. Those who communicate with strangers aim to meet people to compensate for their lack of social skills and for entertainment. These findings suggest the possibility that many teenagers have interactions with strangers who potentially have malicious intentions. Another research evaluated 8-year olds and concluded, “...when presented with potentially dangerous Internet interactions almost half were not able to identify the associated risks” [5]. Since young users cannot identify online risks, strangers that they meet can easily take advantage of their innocence and manipulate them at their will, as shown in the movie. To prevent these risks, websites should request parental supervision when children are browsing on the Internet. This could inform parents who their child is interacting with and their online activities. However, a study states that “...Less than 10% of the surveyed websites provided some parental control and only 23% of the sites suggested that the child online user consults with their parents before providing the requested information” [6]. The irresponsibility from these websites further enables the exploitation of innocent individuals to propagate evil intentions. In fact, in 2010, the National Public Survey on White Collar Crime revealed that 24% of households in the United States had at least one person who has experienced some fraud-related crime within the past 12 months [7].

Ralph and Vanellope fearlessly click Spamley's ad despite not knowing him.
Ralph and Vanellope motorcyle past the infection warning sign in Tron.

Ignoring Warning Signs

At the beginning of the movie, Ralph and Vanellope raced through an arcade level that clearly contained a sign labeled: “Danger, infected area, keep out.” However, they chose to ignore these obvious warnings and proceeded with the game. Ralph and Vanellope’s decision to ignore computer warning signs is a prevalent issue in real life. An online survey reported that “... between 30% and 60% of participants said they would ignore each of the tested browser warnings and continue to a potentially dangerous website. In a subsequent laboratory study, redesigned versions of these warnings achieved greater compliance, but, even in the best case, 45% of participants still ignored the warning when it interfered with their primary tasks” [8]. These results suggest that warning signs are not effective and assertive enough to protect users from navigating dangerous websites. Furthermore, users should learn to resist the urge to silence warnings when they interrupt the workflow.

Sources

[1] Symantec. "Internet Security Threat Report." Owasp, Apr. 2012, https://owasp.org/www-pdf-archive/Symantec_ISTR_17.pdf. Accessed 1 May 2021.

[2] Shaw Business. "Internet Threats." Assets,
http://assets.ctfassets.net/xuyk8cewv1yh/6IA0bMjy9OKqUeikyeGUuE/c1ebe4d7410b25569f7cccaa9a62304d/7-steps-to-security-for-your-small-business.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2021.

[3] Hajioff, Steve & Mckee, Martin. (2000). The 'I Love You' virus and its implications for genodiversity. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 93. 398-9. 10.1177/014107680009300802. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/014107680009300802. Accessed May 1, 2021.

[4] Peter, Jochen & Valkenburg, Patti & Schouten, Alexander. (2006). Characteristics and Motives of Adolescents Talking with Strangers on the Internet. Cyberpsychology & Behavior: the impact of the Internet, multimedia and virtual reality on behavior and society. 9. 526-30. 10.1089/cpb.2006.9.526. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/cpb.2006.9.526. Accessed May 1, 2021.

[5] Ey, Lesley-anne & Cupit, C.. (2011). Exploring young children’s understanding of risks associated with Internet usage and their concepts of management strategies. Journal of Early Childhood Research. 9. 53-65. 10.1177/1476718X10367471. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1476718X10367471. Accessed May 1, 2021.

[6] Hertzel, Dorothy A. Don’t Talk to Strangers: An Analysis of Government and Industry Efforts to Protect a Child's Privacy Online. Core,
https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/232658366.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2021.

[7] Button, Mark et al. “Online frauds: Learning from victims why they fall for these scams.” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology 47 (2014): 391 - 408. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0004865814521224. Accessed May 1, 2021.

[8] Cristian Bravo-Lillo, Lorrie Faith Cranor, Julie Downs, Saranga Komanduri, and Manya Sleeper. 2011. Improving computer security dialogs. In Proceedings of the 13th IFIP TC 13 international conference on Human-computer interaction - Volume Part IV (INTERACT'11). Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 18–35.
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-23768-3_2. Accessed May 1, 2021.