2014 will go down in US history as the first wide-scale cyber attack assisted by the media. This attack did not impact people physically but it affected people’s freedom of speech. Now (choose your adversary – terrorists, hacktivists, activists, governments, dictators, regular people) from the comfort of their home, school, palace, or cave these individuals can attack a person, business or multinational corporation, steal information and blackmail them just because they do not approve what they are doing or believe in.
Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, threatened Sony about releasing The Interview. In the comedy, the CIA recruits a talk show host to assassinate Kim Jong-un. North Korea asked Sony to not make the movie. Sony did anyway. Kim Jong-un’s followers then attacked their enemy via the Internet and stole confidential documents and intellectual property to blackmail Sony. The act ignited a parade of controversy, which ultimately forced Sony to temporarily pull The Interview from theaters.
The media should be held accountable for helping North Korean hackers in achieving the objective of this cyber attack. When Apple’s cloud was compromised and celebrities’ naked photos were leaked, media agencies conspired to avoid promoting the illegal activity. But because the North Koreans vs. Sony involved a corporation instead of people, the media reported on it and disclosed stolen information. Shame on them for not protecting Sony’s right to privacy like they did for celebrities.
Now a precedent has been set. Criminals can win and revoke a company’s freedom of speech. It is ironic that the media, which has always fought to protect freedom of speech ultimately, harmed it by exercising theirs. This significantly damages our collective ability to express beliefs some find offensive.
Governments and especially the media need to agree that stolen information can’t be used to advance an agenda or improve ratings. Until and unless we decide as individuals not to glorify the act of theft, we are eroding our personal freedom. Does it matter what someone said jokingly in an email or what happens in the next James Bond film? Remember that these crooks committed a crime. We cannot promote this criminal behavior to prevent it from becoming an epidemic.
While this event was playing out in the media I had told my family, friends, and colleges that I hoped Sony still releases The Interview. Sony ultimately moved forward and released The Interview at a few theaters and allowed streaming of the movie on Xbox, PlayStation, Google and ITunes. I watched The Interview Christmas day via Google’s YouTube and enjoyed it immensely. I hope this sends a message to the criminals that they did not ultimately succeed.