Sony’s Fake (Maybe) Hack and Real National Security

The Interview

In attempting to write a humorous, post-holiday, light-hearted few words about the silliness of “The Interview” being offensive to the North Korean dictatortots, the usual poking around occurred to see what other, more engaged writers on the issue had to say. Oddly, what appeared at first blush to be a minor flap over a (probably) mediocre film (disclosure: haven’t seen it, likely won’t, until boredom and/or curiosity wins) took on more significance when it became clear that there is some debate as to whether or not the North Koreans actually hacked Sony — exposing embarassing emails — to lob threats in retaliation for the film’s release.

As most people know, that led to a canceling of the release and a subsequent release online in a patriotic stand to show those pesky tyrants we Americans do not bow to threats and intimidation.

But now — and forgive me for being slow on the uptake but I’ve been pleasantly family immersed — there’s some doubt as to whether the North Koreans hacked Sony at all (they’ve claimed they never did).

It’s been a week since the U.S. government blamed North Korea for the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment — and many security experts still aren’t convinced Kim Jong-un is the culprit.

The FBI’s announcement, rather than settling the debate, has only fueled widespread speculation over the source of the attack.

Skeptics claim the evidence the FBI cited is flimsy and inconclusive. They question whether Pyongyang really had the motive, or the ability, to scramble Sony’s systems.

And they’re pushing a range of alternative theories.

At least one of those theories is that a disgruntled Sony employee, trying to exact revenge of some kind, may have been behind the hack that led to the embarassing leaks. The counterpoint is that the FBI has more evidence that points stonger fingers at North Korea but just can’t release that information yet (national security concerns, one would assume).

North Korea has denied the hack, but still thinks the release of the film is bad form, and even places the blame directly on President Obama.

North Korea issued a statement on its official state news agency on Saturday denouncing Sony Pictures Entertainment’s release of the movie “The Interview.” It called President Barack Obama the “chief culprit” who forced the production company to “indiscriminately distribute” the picture.

The statement attributed to the National Defense Commission also denounced the United States for blaming North Korea for a hacking attack on the moviemaker earlier this month.

“If the U.S. is to persistently insist that the hacking attack was made by the DPRK, the U.S. should produce evidence without fail, though belatedly,” the statement publish by KCNA said.

Foreign Policy is convinced it was an inside job. For their part, it couldn’t have been anything else because two cybersecurity professionals they interviewed see no other option. The Daily Beast agrees, throwing out this delicious bit of self-aggrandizement: “I may be biased, but, as the director of security operations for DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker conference, and the principal security researcher for the world’s leading mobile security company, Cloudflare, I think I am worth hearing out.”

But — and this is where it became clear that this story is more than just a silly diversion wherein two barely serious comedians got the greatest PR in the history of bad filmmaking for their (probably) mediocre film — there are other opinons. One of them from the very serious John Bolton writing in…The Hollywood reporter?

We must first grasp that Pyongyang engaged in asymmetric warfare. It ravaged a major firm’s information systems but thereby also demonstrated our vulnerability to grave and growing threats to critical but inadequately defended American IT and communications infrastructures. What North Korea can do, other adversaries, both rogue states and major powers, can also do. Our answer to Pyongyang must bear these global threats in mind.

He goes on from there, detailing how we must respond as a nation to such overt acts of hating on the least impressive creative endeavors this great country produces.

So, who hacked Sony remains a mystery, but it’s clear that very serious national defense and security decisions are being thrown around in response to the exposure of a few megalomanics talking trash about the talent. Which is both uniquely so silly as to not even bother worrying about and terrifying on a level it’s difficult to explain. Because, and I can’t stress this enough, James Franco should never — NEVER — have that much power.

Anyway, for my part, I’m here with it.

#YouCanGo if you want, but sheesh, #YouDontHaveToGo. Just as it’s our right as Americans to put out any dumb, racist, homophobic, misogynistic comedy that also happens to depict the fiery death of a sitting political leader, it’s also our right to not give a shit about said comedy. Not only is there nothing revolutionary about The Interview, there is nothing revolutionary about the screening and viewing of The Interview. That’s not to say that it shouldn’t happen, but let’s keep it all in perspective. More than anything, watching the same bros make jokes about gay anal sex for fun and profit actually kinda sounds like business as usual.

But I’m also forced to acknowledge — or really, be reminded — that Hollywood is a great disseminator of information to the general public and should be regarded as often more than just entertainment when the world’s touchiest leaders love to hate us and everything we represent. Because if Franco and Rogen have the ability to start some kind of war, we really need to start addressing the vacuum in leadership that allows for dudes like that to have that much influence.

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