Rogue One: Digital Archivists Weigh In On The Empire's Shoddy Approach to Archiving

By James O Malley on at

If you haven't seen Rogue One, don't read on unless you're dying to make yourself angry and frustrated.

At it's heart, Rogue One is a film about data: The Rebels want to get it, the Empire wants to keep it safe. And that really is the heart of the film. Having seen the film, we now know the real story of how the Death Star plans were first obtained - but was it really due to the hard work and bravery of a small band of rogues? Or was it simply because the Empire stored its data in a particularly stupid way?

Brilliantly, the folks at digital archiving company Preservica have written a fascinating blog post detailing all of the massive problems in the Empire's data storage system. Here's the key highlights:

  • The failure to replicate critical data to a remote location, preferably a galaxy far far away, which is not effected by a similar death star event
  • An authentication system that allowed the hand of a dead archivist to be used to gain entry (not generally recommended by the archiving community)
  • No fine grained security – once in you could see everything
  • No encryption at rest – physical asset could be removed and re-read on another device, without even the need for the dead archivist’s hand
  • No metadata to prove the provenance of the plans – how could you be sure you were looking at the right death star plans?
  • Using a single metadata tag as a finding aid to locate the key information, and relying on the knowledge of one individual to recognise this tag
  • Putting a whole information package on one removable device meaning it could be extracted from the archive in a non-recoverable way
  • The inefficiency of the tape robot – a tall tower is not the optimum configuration for access speeds
  • Using a tall tower as an archive makes it an easy target. Critical information should be kept somewhere more anonymous
  • A file format policy that relied on the Evil Empire and Rebel Alliance using the same software

C'mon guys, this is pretty basic stuff. Perhaps if Tarkin and Vader had created a workplace culture where employees felt free to share ideas and constructive criticisms, rather than an atmosphere of fear, some of these problems could have been identified before they became a problem?

You can read the full thing here.