N. Korean Sony Hack That Caused A Film Cancellation an Act of War?

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Many scoff at the idea – the thought that a Hollywood film’s cancellation could start a massive global war… but maybe don’t write it off as impossible just yet.

According to an article titled “Now That The US Government Thinks North Korea Hacked Sony, Here’s How It Could Respond” [1], Yahoo! News explains:

US investigators reportedly believe hackers working for North Korea are responsible for a debilitating cyberattack against Sony Pictures which has damaged the studio’s computer systems and resulted in it pulling one of its Christmas-day releases.

The incident is the most devastating cyberattack ever on a US-based company. And it now appears that the US is close to claiming that a state sponsor is behind the incident.

If North Korea really is involved, it may leave the US in the position of having to formulate some kind of a response to the breach.

America’s leverage is minimal, as Dave Aitel, a former NSA research scientist and CEO of the cybersecurity firm Immunity , explained to Business Insider earlier this week. Many offensive options are problematic given “the technical complexities involved, legislative challenges, or the international escalation they will generate,” Aitel said.

But the US could also respond by shifting its legal and diplomatic framework for how it approaches cyber-attacks.

One proactive move the US should consider, according to Aitel, is “declaring certain cyberattacks terrorist acts and the groups behind them terrorists,” which would “set in motion a wider range of legal authority, US government/military resources, and international options.”

The new legal framework “would also make it harder for hacker networks to operate in key international areas, as it would require a greater level of cooperation from US allies, EU members, NATO, G20, etc.,” in addition to making it easier “for the US government to target the funding of not only the hacker networks, but any companies or organizations that aid them, even in incidentally or unknowingly.”

Since 9/11, the US has officially considered acts of terrorism to be acts of war. Aitel’s suggestion is to update this understanding so that it includes what would be “cyberterrorists” committing cyber acts of war, like the one that hit Sony.

“Frankly, we need to start talking about what role and responsibility the US government should have in securing US companies from cyberattacks,” Aitel said.

More immediately, the US has some limited diplomatic options in response to the hack once North Korean culpability is established.

It could quietly pressure friendly regional governments to crack down on pro-Pyongyang organizations involved in funneling foreign currency and intelligence to the North Korean government, such as Chongryon, the regime’s unofficial adjunct in Japan.

It could also dial back or completely freeze trade with the country, which was worth $21.9 million in 2014 — a relatively small amount, but a dramatic increase over the $6.6 million in trade from the year before. And the US could freeze any ongoing discussion of restoring large-scale food aid to the north, something that was halted in 2008.

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[1] Now That The US Government Thinks North Korea Hacked Sony, Here’s How It Could Respond

Royce Christyn
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