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How the Hacking of Sony Computers Could Impact Us All

sony logoThe ramifications of the hacking of Sony's computers by suspected North Korean operatives goes far beyond damage to the reputations of a few Hollywood stars, but has far-reaching implications that could directly impact the lives of every American.

The Washington Post is reporting on a White House briefing held yesterday which addressed the attack on Sony's computers and the administration's belief that North Korea was “centrally involved” in the hacking.

The incident involved the stealing of company records including private emails, payroll accounts, and a vast amount of other data in retaliation for an upcoming movie, The Interview, which features the fictional assassination of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

The hacking and subsequent release of embarrassing data was quickly followed by anonymous but direct threats against movie theaters that showed the film, which was scheduled to be released on Christmas day. This prompted Sony to tell its distributors to use their own judgment about whether or not to show the film. Most decided not to take the risk.

But the ramifications of this action go far beyond damage to Sony.

“This is something that’s being treated as a serious national security matter,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest in a press conference yesterday. “There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive  destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor.”

North Korean President Kim Jong-Un North Korean President Kim Jong-Un

The administration is currently deliberating a "proportional response" to what was done, an action that could launch the U.S. into a direct confrontation with North Korea.

Earnest said the U.S. response to the cyberattack might be the kind that is hard to detect publicly in order to prevent the perpetrators from getting the attention they seek.

“They would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response, and also mindful of the fact that sophisticated actors, when they carry out actions like this, are oftentimes — not always, but often — seeking to provoke a response from the United States of America,” Mr. Earnest said. “They may believe that a response from us in one fashion or another would be advantageous to them. So we want to be mindful of that.”

The situation is indeed serious. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Cybersecurity said the Sony attack is raising alarms about what kind of havoc can be caused upon American society should enemies of the U.S. launch attacks against the nation's electric grid, Wall Street, or even the government itself.

“The attack on Sony is the latest high-profile example of the growing danger of the cyber threat, and it won’t be the last,” said the Pennsylvania lawmaker.

"American businesses, financial networks, government agencies and infrastructure systems like power grids are at continual risk. They’re targeted not just by lone hackers and criminal syndicates, but by well-funded nation-states like North Korea and Iran. A lack of consequences for when nation states carry out cyberattacks has only emboldened these adversaries to do more harm,” he added.

Meehan co-authored the Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act which passed in Congress and is now heading for the president's desk.

According to, four cybersecurity measures passed in the last week which are aimed at allowing the government to support research, raise public awareness of cyber risks and improve the nation's cybersecurity workforce. They will also allow the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop standards and best practices for critical infrastructure.

These standards are critical because "they're designed to prevent and offset potentially devastating cyber damage to industrial plant systems and networks—commonly used in transportation grids, power plants, water treatment facilities, and other vital industrial settings,” said the International Society of Automation (ISA).

Groups are already in discussion with NIST officials about how to implement key provisions of the laws once they are signed by the president, which he is expected to do at any time.

"The attack on Sony shows the dire need to upgrade our cyber defenses. We need to ease the sharing of threat information between government and the private sector and strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to attacks," said Meehan.

“Congress took important steps last week by passing bipartisan legislation that builds our cyber defense capabilities – it’s time for those bills to be signed into law and implemented.”

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