The Sony Hack Reveals a Bigger Picture

The recent Sony Pictures Entertainment hack is like witnessing a slow-motion train wreck Hollywood style. Obviously, Sony’s IT systems weren’t secure enough. However, there’s a bigger problem than Sony and its leaked documents and emails rife with celebrity drama.

Forget execs mocking Angelina Jolie and reports of unequal pay for men and women. Forget the fact that a new movie, The Interview, has at least temporarily derailed before opening due to terrorist threats to blow up theaters. And let’s overlook for a moment the political drama and intrigue associated with hackers in North Korea allegedly doing the dastardly deed.

The bigger problem is that major enterprise and government hacks have become commonplace. After the Sony breach, the White House chimed in with a statement characterizing this event as a “serious national security matter.” Indeed, the architect of this event is unleashing political, social and economic chaos. Clearly, this is a huge problem.

But here’s what I’m wondering: If hackers can break into one company after another at will— compromising credit card and identify data, emails and just about everything else—then they can most likely break into critical infrastructure systems, including the utility grid. Plenty has been written about poor security in critical infrastructure. What’s more, engineers are now finding malware residing in various systems.

Why haven’t we witnessed any attacks on key infrastructure in countries around the world? Let’s hope it’s not because enemies and terrorists are waiting until they have all the pieces in place to create a big bang and toss this country—perhaps the world—into total mayhem.

Without electricity, computer networks and perhaps even water, things would go downhill very rapidly. Factor in panic, ensuing hoarding/shortages of fuel and food, citizens armed to the hilt with guns, and no ability to right the ship for days or weeks, and you have all the essential ingredients for massive chaos—perhaps even civil warfare. All without any foreign entity ever setting foot on American soil!

Rod Serling explored this idea in a 1960 Twilight Zone episode titled The Monsters are Due on Maple Street. There’s no question that future warfare will be fought through social and economic disruption.

If government and business don’t get their act together soon and start building far more secure systems, the Sony hack will look like a zany little comedy on the superhighway to total disaster.

Samuel Greengard, a CIO Insight contributing writer, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.


Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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