Last time out, we looked at the “Sony hack” that spilled data and gossip onto the Internet, with the apparent motive of preventing the release of a film, The Interview, that portrayed the assassination of North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. It would be no surprise if the hack originated in North Korea, as North Korea’s human rights record has been portrayed as a living nightmare at the UN. So blocking a film would be a trifle.
But was North Korea the culprit? Charges fly about who is responsible for the hack that sent Hollywood screaming. One credible source claims that it was the work of a disgruntled Sony (ex?) insider. But North Korea claims that the US administration was deeply involved in making the film.
Meanwhile, North Korea was off the Internet for some hours, with a variety of suspects implicated:
Was it a shadowy crew of guerrilla hackers, under the flag of Anonymous? A retaliatory strike from the United States? A betrayal from China, North Korea’s top ally and its Web gatekeeper? Or just a technical glitch or defensive maneuver from the Hermit Kingdom itself?
So what can we learn from all this?
1. The Internet is not a nation state phenomenon. Thus it leaves nation states, even powerful ones like the United States, helpless and confused, resorting to manipulative terminology like cybervandalism. We may find it nearly impossible to discover who is really responsible for hacks. As the Washington Post explains,
But other security experts said hostile code can be adapted from other attacks and filtered covertly through foreign servers. Even basic cyberattacks can use decoys or distractions, including hosts of “zombie” computers or falsified location data, to shake pursuers off the trail.
“The actual work of evidence-gathering and prosecution is so much more difficult in the digital world than in the biological world,” said Alec Ross, a senior fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “Unlike a bullet, something ‘shot’ as a cyberweapon can be reused and repurposed. Obfuscation is much easier, and it’s much easier to distribute an attack.”
That will affect business worldwide. Some hackers may care only about preventing damage to the reputation of their glorious leader, but others may have profit motives as well. See, for example, How to sink a competitor using Google Maps.
2. No one in Hollywood stood with Sony, despite all the bravado films Hollywood makes. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. So how much of what we hear from them is mere manipulative propaganda? It’s been suggested that their new policy will be to avoid real world situations altogether, in favour of ones in which no actual nations or popular movements are named. Or, if any are, they will be comparatively harmless groups who cannot or would not retaliate. Mennonites? Canadians? We shall see.
3. If Hollywood is now governed by fear, we must be governed by good judgment in our entertainment choices. As family lawyer Aaron C. Smith puts it “We’re witnessing abject fear” from the people who used to strut in front of us as the Lords of Culture.
One obvious solution for now is, ignore these cool cowards. Choose our own entertainment. The Internet makes that easier than ever. For holiday viewing, I personally recommend A Man for All Seasons, Becket, Pride and Prejudice (1995), and Brideshead Revisited.
Currently, Sony’s lawyer says The Interview will be shown at some point. Yes, and the weathervane here says the wind is blowing north by northwest. We wll not get a memo if it changes.
That said, this just in, 12:30 EST: More on Sony’s plan to release The Interview Christmas Day, though few theatres are willing to risk showing it. .
Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.