The North Korean cyberterrorism attack on Sony Pictures has many repercussions beyond a state-sponsored cyberattack on a corporation to illegally obtain intellectual property.
The apparent goal of the cyberterrorists was to stop or disrupt the distribution of the comedy movie The Interview, which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This incident has exposed, in some fascinating ways, the real-world, tangible consequences of an intangible cyberattack.
By Sony, at first, entirely canceling the theatrical release of The Interview, a foreign state was successfully able to affect our rights to free speech in the United States. The rights of the citizens of a sovereign state were violated by cyber terrorists halfway around the world — and with no physical force.
This decline in nation-state sovereignty was foreshadowed by Alvin Toffler as a consequence of the information age. Having physical borders is not enough to stop a cyberattack over the Internet, which allows all kinds of malware to effortlessly cross sovereign borders at a click of a button.
With the decline of national sovereignty, there is also a rise of the role and responsibilities of transnational corporations. These large entities need to worry about a global constituency and not just the country where a subsidiary is located. This is especially true of media companies creating satirical content that may offend a group somewhere in the world enough to take action.
With the United States vowing to respond in proportion to the cyberattack, it has now become a national security issue. We are witnessing an international incident. This is amazing when you consider this all started by cyberattackers wanting to stop the release of a comedy movie.
The more interesting question is how do you retaliate against North Korea? Economic sanctions are meaningless since North Korea is already isolated from the global economy. Attacking its cyberinfrastructure is not an option since it has a limited one and can easily stop an attack by terminating the connection to the Internet. The United States is put into a position where it has to reach out to China for help in retaliatng against North Korea.
These attacks are no longer just something we hear about in the news and that happens in cyberspace. They are and will continue to directly affect our lives. Governments, organizations and citizens need to take cybersecurity seriously. Many individuals and business owners suffer from “cyberfatigue,” which numbs them to nonstop stories of cyberattacks.
Doing nothing about this issue is no longer an option.
One of the main takeaways from the Sony cyberterrorism case is that organizations need to have a plan in place when, not if, they are the victim of a cyberattack.
Since the odds of a successful cyberattack are high, organizations need to have a response plan ready to go. Defending against cyber attacks is essential, but having a plan to respond is critical.
Suhail Nanji, president, DataSurer LLC, Sunrise