Bridge Span 14-17: NOW SHOWING! The Hack that Ate the Internet Ecosystem!

Recently Sony Pictures became the most recent victim of hackers. This hack captured American attention in ways that many previous hacks had not despite the seriousness of each of them largely because of the trove of private embarrassing emails, sensitive employee information such as salary negotiations and results, and intellectual property being made public. Attention was further driven by scandalous, sensationalist headlines…repeatedly. Tinsel Town lives in a bubble, disconnected from the rest of the country, much like Washington, DC, so when something goes awry in these places the national schadenfreude is wide spread. In this case, things went wrong in both places.


While the attack on Sony, if not a traditional act of war, certainly goes well beyond some hackers on a lark. This should demand the serious attention of the public. That some blamed the victim or took advantage of the situation is shocking.


Those who blame the company for taking a wrong turn where national security is concerned by delaying the release of the “Interview” are baffling. Doesn’t national security responsibility rest on Capitol Hill and the White House rather than a movie studio? Would we blame a hostage taken by ISIS for placing our Navy Seals at risk? Regardless of what Sony does with its property it can hardly be accused of making a “mistake.” To the extent a mistake was made, it was that cybersecurity legislation was not made law, or even that Washington has not seemingly taken cybersecurity as seriously as it should as it is a very real very present threat to national security and to our individual liberty.


Others went so far as to try to create a side show to this international attack by spinning up a policy debate about copyright, referencing some stolen emails from Sony employees discussing the harm of ongoing copyright piracy. That Sony Pictures or that its trade association, the Motion Picture Association of America, are concerned about the harm of people stealing their property is hardly shocking. With tens of billions of dollars in direct economic harm at stake, that they may appeal to the government for greater protection of intellectual property via laws or law enforcement should catch absolutely no one by surprise.


These sorts antics distract from the very real issue at hand – that the Internet ecosystem is under attack and as such the entire ecosystem needs to respond, not be divided. True success in the digital world is achievable when all parties understand that they cannot stand on their own, that in fact an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires cooperation with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. The distributed nature of the Internet is a fundamental part of its design, and no one entity can be an island. Stakeholder cooperation is imperative for the success of all.


In fact, as the Pew Charitable Trust Internet and American Life Project a notable percentage of Americans have not yet adopted broadband, or have stopped using it, because they believe the benefits of use are outweighed by the risk or a lack of compelling uses.  If the Internet becomes, or is perceived to have become, a mere tool to facilitate illegal activity whether copyright theft, property damage, financial fraud, drug sales, human trafficking or other things then all in the ecosystem from service providers to content producers to Internet companies lose.


Cyber security should be the focus. Trying to turn this most recent hack attack into some sort of Internet reality show episode is disturbing. To fixate on information gained in the hack seems a bit small, ignoring the warlike criminal behavior while attacking the victim over revealed competitive decisions problematic. All entities in the ecosystem must be proactive. Government, individuals and companies we must all be alert and focused. And when the ecosystem is attacked we all must focus on the attack not focus on attacking each other.

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