Article by: Liz Kang

On November 24, 2014, the hackers, who call themselves the “Guardians of Peace”or “GOP”, infiltrated the computer network of Sony Pictures Entertainment, a major Hollywood movie studio. The hackers acquired and stole 100 terabytes of data from Sony servers, which included personal information about Sony Pictures Entertainment’s employees and their families, e-mails between employees, copies of unreleased Sony films, and many other information. Furthermore the hackers warned that if Sony does not “obey” what they demanded, which is to cancel the planned release of the film, The Interview, a comedy movie about a scheme and plan to assassinate the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, the hackers will expose and release Sony’s “top secrets”.

At 10:50 A.M., Deadline’s Mike Fleming reported that “computers in Los Angeles were shut down while the corporation deals with the breach.” and has “brought the whole global corporation to an electronic standstill.” Clearly, Sony Pictures Entertainment hack shocked the world and posed an international, technological problem to the global community.

On November 27, five Sony Entertainment’s films were dumped onto file-sharing networks, namely Brad Pitt’s Frury and was downloaded illegally more than 1 million times. United States Intelligence officials and Sony suspected that North Korea may have been primarily involved and was responsible for the attack and hacking in retaliation for the release of The Interview. North Korean website responded and called The Interview “an evil act of provocation”.

Hackers also warned the Sony Entertainment to “stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the war.” The terrorism threat eventually forced Sony to drop the film. According to the Vox, theater companies “became nervous about the possibility that the attackers- whoever they were- would follow through on the threats” and that the “fears of terrorism would keep moviegoers away from the theaters”. This therefore resulted in the theaters to ask Sony Entertainment to stop releasing the film.

However, not only was Sony Entertainment attacked by the hackers, but the federal weather network recently had been hacked by the hackers from China. According to the Washington Post, this forced “cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses”.

Hacking and attacking network systems is definitely not only illegal but also immoral. However, hacking has become a commonplace and is becoming more “mainstream”. However, is there any definitive way to prevent the spread of hacking? And if so, how can we ensure that these solutions can effectively address this issue? The teachers and HS IT coordinators share thoughts and opinions regarding hacking problem.

<Interview with Mr. Hoover>

  1. Has hacking become more “mainstream”?

The world will continually see an increase in the number of hackers and the nature of hacking itself will evolve in complexity and power as time marches on. As more and more of our lives occur digitally and information is more highly prized and sought after, we’ll see an increasing number of individuals, groups and countries striving to exploit, damage and disrupt through this medium. There has also been a sharp increase in the resources available to learn these skills, as thus it’s becoming less of an elite group and in that regard, yes, it’s becoming more mainstream.

  1. What needs to be done in response?

As individuals:

  • Take proper measures to secure your own data (encrypt vital docs, encrypt backups)
  • Use password managers so that no two logins utilize the same passwords and all use techniques to strengthen the passwords.
  • Turn on two-step authentication whenever possible. More and more services support this now.
  • Closely monitor financial transactions through tools like Mint.
  • Be weary of what you share with “the cloud”.

As governments / companies / groups:

The world of tomorrow demands that we continually re-write what safety and security means. Hacking and such activities can not only cause disruption such as with PSN, thereby costing millions of dollars, but also trust in the company and the relationships between clients, consumers and joint partners. Hacking of systems can cause damage and disruption resulting in loss of life if, say, power grids were attacked. Governments and groups responsible for the safety and security of their citizens need to employ the best measures possible to thwart such attacks.

Like hikers in the fog, we’re traversing new territory without fully knowing what’s around the bend. As G.I. Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.”

<Interview with Mr. Collett>

  1. Has hacking become more mainstream?

Definitely hacking has become more mainstream. Back in the day hacking was relatively difficult to do and required coding and deep knowledge of a difficult tool, “the internet”. These days hacking can be as simple as jumping on your friends facebook and posting something silly to their timeline, to deep networking hacks that requires specialist programs. Basically everyone can do easy hacks and because there is a learning curve, people move from easy to harder more frequently. The hacking that is usually heard about in the media are ddos attacks which are pretty primitive. Basically lots and lots of computers try to go to the same site which overloads its server and shuts the site down. This is what “Anonymous” does usually. But there are also complex hacks like Stuxnet which was an US government program created to disrupt systems of other nations, like Iran’s nuclear program. In either case, hacking is now part of our life and is increasing rather than decreasing as more and more people get on the internet and play around with it in good and inevitably, bad ways.

  1. What needs to be done in response?

The response to this is complicated as it deals with several problems. The first is that the internet is considered by many as a different place than they physical world. So people online can be a lot more vicious and mean because they think they can get away with it anonymously and don’t see the damage it does. Likewise, the internet increasingly runs our lives and so nations and organizations are engaged in cyberwars against each other to undermine the legitimacy of the other. We live in a developing world of cyberespionage both personally and nationally and everything in between. So what can we do about it? Well this again is complicated. Basically I believe that we are at the stage of the internet where, like any civilization throughout history, rules and regulations need to establish the safety of its users. There are lots opinions on this as many see the internet as a “free place” where everyone can do whatever they want. They argue that this helps innovation and creativity and so is worth the pain. On the other side people have their lives ruined by hackers and often with nothing they can do about it. This has led to suicides, depression and a level of fear in society that is unhealthy. So it is kindof a lord of the flies argument. While it may seem cool initially to be without rules and guidance, in the end it turns to chaos that hurts everyone, even the good. So I believe that the internet needs to become less anonymous. Basically if you want to participate in society you have to live by its rules. The same should be true of the internet. Rules in a democratic society are after all established by the people, for the people to help everyone live a better life. So the idea that the internet doesn’t need them is naive. To do this I think increasing identification needs to be secured through ISP’s (internet service providers). If you want internet you get an id to use and that id is traceable in what you do via your device. While it may seem “evil”, its how we all live normally and it’s fine. Imagine a world without justice, laws, or the police. It sounds fun to be able to do whatever you want. But then when bad things happen to you, you quickly realize why there needs to be regulation. At a national level this is more difficult and we will see cyberwars occurring in the near future. But over time, the internet will become more transparent and these too will diminish, just like war has in the modern age compared to the past. History is known to repeat itself and while the internet seems very different to anything that came before, it is made of the same things – people and their ideas and will follow a similar track to the past. Then a new thing will come along and the process will repeat.

Personally I look forward to a higher level of accountability. When I was younger I was definitely for free internet as I naturally had less freedom, but as I have aged and become more worldly wise, I’ve seen the problems that arise from it and how it can hurt the world we live in. That being said, controls must be reasonable as censorship for authoritarianism purposes is not the answer and will lead to more, not less hacking.

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