The last week or so marks what I would describe as an unprecedented shift in the impact of cyber attacks with the Sony breach. I run from the constant fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that gets circulated and recirculated by vendors and media outlets but I see this attack and more specifically the impact as different for several reasons. The Sony attack is also a call to action for the government of the United States to get their act together on cyber security and DO something to help American businesses large and small better defend themselves.
So what was different about the Sony attack?
Scope and impact. The scope of the attack as we know it so far is different from anything I can ever have remembered seeing before. Instead of a massive attack targeting specific information like large volumes of credit card or social security numbers this attack stole intellectual property, HR records and caused disruption to “the network”. That’s malice and the intent to do measurable harm to a specific company rather than gain financially, the scale and scope of which we have never seen before.
The impacts of this attack were swift and far reaching. Intellectual property in the form of five or more movies from Sony Pictures were stolen and are being shared illegally around the web. Salaries, home address and other Human Resources related data of 6,000 Sony Pictures employees were stolen and shared and posted in one form or another across the web. Finally the company was reportedly shut down and held hostage to ransom demands that left many computers unresponsive.
All of these details in both and scope and impact represent an unprecedented attack on a US based company (Sony Pictures Studios is located in Culver City, CA). Our government has fiddled while Rome burns and it’s time that the government step in and partner with industry to find a way to stop the bleeding. I’ve had the pleasure to be part of a measurably productive government/industry partnership in cybersecurity with the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) program and I testified before the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities extolling the incredible value of the DIB program and how it could and should be meaningfully expanded. So I know we have the talent, both in government and industry to address (not solve) this issue.
We have all the right people to deal with this in a meaningful way that can improve the current situation. I’m the last person to ever ask the government to lead anything but in this case I really do think it’s their job and I know firsthand that they have a template for doing it.