December 2014 Archives

Sony hack commentary

Vice has a great interview with Peter Singer. Singer makes some excellent points, especially when it comes to applying the word terrorism to the Sony pictures hack.

The FBI's definition of terrorism is as follows:
18 U.S.C. ยง 2331 defines "international terrorism" and "domestic terrorism" for purposes of Chapter 113B of the Code, entitled "Terrorism":

"International terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

  • Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
  • Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.*

Calling what happened to Sony terrorism cheapens the idea of terrorism for those who have suffered violence. The 132 children who were recently killed by the Taliban in Pakistan were victims of terrorism. Their families were victims of terrorism. What Sony is suffering from is embarrassment.

NB: Above, I am speaking solely of The Hack. Ensuing threats of violence from the Guardians of Peace certainly fall into the definition. But again, as Singer points out: is there capability to follow through with said threat?

Sony's label of "cyber terrorism" is being echoed by organizations like the MPAA who sent out this gem of a Press Release:
"The FBI's announcement that North Korea is responsible for the attack on Sony Pictures is confirmation of what we suspected to be the case: that cyber terrorists, bent on wreaking havoc, have violated a major company to steal personal information, company secrets and threaten the American public. It is a despicable, criminal act.

Disappointingly, that fact has been lost in a lot of the media coverage of this over the past few weeks. This situation is larger than a movie's release or the contents of someone's private emails. This is about the fact that criminals were able to hack in and steal what has now been identified as many times the volume of all of the printed material in the Library of Congress and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who work in the film and television industry, as well as the millions who simply choose to go to the movies. The Internet is a powerful force for good and it is deplorable that it is being used as a weapon not just by common criminals, but also, sophisticated cyber terrorists. We cannot allow that front to be opened again on American corporations or the American people" [emphasis added].
 
Which is it? Terrorists or criminals? These are dangerous waters being waded into in describing the hack. 

Was Sony at fault for this?
An acquaintance recently summed up some philosophical nuances: "...there is an important moral difference between 'creating a situation with a predictable effect they should have foreseen' and 'asking for it' or 'inviting it.' The latter phrases mitigate the immorality of the attackers, as if it makes it less wrong to do something predictably wrong. If you 'invite' or 'ask for' something you are condoning it. If you just stupidly leave yourself open to it, you are responsible for being stupid, but not for the wrong act that results."

DPRK (official according to FBI) is 100% at fault for the morality of their actions, i.e. that they were wrong. Sony is the victim. 

Now, let's talk about the responsibility Sony had.

Sony had a responsibility to their employees and shareholders to protect their personal and intellectual property. They had a responsibility to identify, understand, and operate within their threat environment. Sony failed to uphold that responsibility in an epic and very public fashion. Sony has not acknowledged this failure. "Being a victim is more palatable than having to recognize the intrinsic contradictions of one's own governing philosophy." ? Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October

Sony has chosen a response I certainly would not have advised had I been standing in their incident response room. Singer calls this the 'lose our shit' mentality, "[t]he reality is we can either choose a 'lose our shit' mentality, or we can choose a mentality that is far more successful, which is focusing on resilience." 

Perhaps Sony can stop losing their shit and focus on resilience.