12/20/14

The story of The Interview, the ill-fated comedy movie depicting the assassination of Kim Jong-Un is all over the place. Most people are critical of Sony and they are clearly to blame for a lot of things, but not for what most people are saying.

Here is how I see the “blame-game” here.

Sony
Clearly the original idea to do such a movie was stupid, lacking in style and class. However despicable the DPRK is — and its leader in particular — doing a movie on the assassination of a real living person is stupid and shows lack of refinement and class. (Which is not surprising given so many of the movies we see today fall into the same league.) Comparing it to The Great Dictator by Charlie Chaplin is heresy. Although The Great Dictator was indeed a pointed attack on Hitler and Germany in the 1930s, it was also very sophisticated. The filmmakers crafted it with style, class, filled it with irony, and utilized acceptable techniques to allow plausible deniability. THAT is how you create a political comedy with message and power. On this score Sony is guilty. But that’s about it.

Many people criticize Sony for giving in. Really? What would have been the reaction if DPRK sent a Special Forces unit to take over Sony’s offices and delete all copies of the movie? Would we expect the head of Sony to lead a counter attack on DPRK? Perhaps with hero soldiers like George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio in tow? Of course not. National security is the business (and one of the very few legitimate businesses, at that) of the United States Government. No commercial entity has any business going to fight against an enemy country and it matters not if this is a virtual war, waged in cyberspace or physical war here on earth. It is the government’s role. Which is why, on this count, I find Sony’s actions completely justified.

United States Government
Where is the US government? An enemy country attacked the US mainland. What is the government going to do about it? The White House is making some sounds of seriously considering this as a national security matter, but given the track record of this administration and the President’s URGENT need to go on vacation, I am somehow not that hopeful.

Here is what I would do:

  • Post a full copy of the movie on http://www.whitehouse.gov/ and see if DPRK is willing to attack that web site.
  • Make a million DVD copies and drop them all over DPRK using various methods, balloons, smuggling, air drops etc.
  • Reinstitute all the sanctions that the Bush administration — in one of their least logical actions — stopped: Cutting DPRK off the world banking system totally as happened back in 2004-5.
  • Send a covert mission to kill a good number of Department/Unit 121 related operators — be it in DPRK, China or wherever they are based, whether or not that are directly responsible for this hacking. This is the DPRK’s cyber warfare unit and they are legitimate targets.
  • Come out with a VERY aggressive policy statement — a doctrine — making it clear that any future state-backed hacking of private, commercial or public entities in the US will be a Cazus Beli. Simple as that. AND I will follow through.

DPRK
Of course they are to blame. There is not much to say here. They are up there with the most terrible groups in the world. I’m not sure if Al Qaeda, IS or DPRK get the prize, but it does not matter.

China
Some people say that some elements of the Chinese government must have helped and that China definitely knew what was happening. I wrote before that I have no doubt that the DPRK continues to exists ONLY because China wants to keep them as a distraction, a second front for China’s time of need. One of these days, when China decides that they are ready to launch a military strike for any one of possible reasons, they will get the DPRK to start a war with South Korea at the same time, thus distracting the US and making it difficult for the US to respond on both fronts. That is the only reason China is allowing this regime to stay in place. So the question is: What one does regarding China on this matter and regarding hacking in general. I guess the “doctrine” mentioned above would have to suffice for now. The US needs to choose its battles.

Counter-Hacking
Some expect the US to launch massive counter-hacking of DPRK. Really? There are about THREE computers in all of DPRK (exaggerating to make a point), how exactly do you hack such a backward country. You could do a massive attack on China, but here I believe discretion is the better part of valor. I am hoping DEEPLY and STRONGLY that the US possesses incredible cyberspace capabilities and that those capabilities are ready to unleash hell on China, BUT only at the right time. Doing so now would only expose those capabilities, allowing China to defend against them. This is one of these weapons that you want to use ONLY when you absolutely have to. Not out of a pique of rage. Indeed, from that perspective, this is exactly what happened here: Kim Jung Un had a pique of rage and exposed some of the capabilities of his/China’s cyber warfare and, more so, the vulnerabilities on the US side. That was actually helpful.

Cyber Security
This leads me to the issue of Cyber Security. You keep hearing “experts” telling us what we can do, what we should not do etc. etc. Clearly, Sony could have done more, but here is the thing: I am sure, although I am not an expert or even close to it, that one can make a computer system so secure and so robust as to make it close to impossible to be hacked. I also fear that by doing so you will also make it completely useless to the user. It does not help if the system is so secure that using it becomes so cumbersome and so inefficient that we’d rather do without. What is the benefit of that? Therefore, in all these issues of Cyber Security there must be a balance between security on the one hand and efficiency for use on the other hand. It is NOT reasonable to expect a commercial system to be so robust as to be able to defend against a state-sponsored hack.

President Obama
Ah . . . of course one could not finish a blog without criticizing the president. I was nearly, very close to giving him a pass, but then came his “annual end of the year press conference” and, as always, he managed to shock, though not surprise, me with his general demeanor of smug arrogance. But on this matter he exceeded all expectations. (I apologize in advance for my lack of respect for the office of the presidency, but it is President Obama that shames that office, not me saying what I am about to say.)

In the matter of the Sony hack he was simply CHICKENSHIT.

This President always gloats on achievements, however puny they are.

This President always takes credit totally for himself for any little thing, even if he had little or nothing to do with it.

This President ALWAYS blames others for anything that goes wrong.

This President is ungracious, arrogant and simply rude.

That he promised us action by the US at a time and pace of our choosing is nothing short of a joke. We have heard those threats so many times before with the exact same language and they NEVER translate to ANY action.

But stomping on a wounded person who is already on his knees and bleeding the way he did to Sony in the press conference is over the top.

Why did he do that? I am absolutely certain that this was his payback for the rude racial e-mails that Sony executives exchanged about him that were exposed in the same hack.

This President is a vengeful, small man with a very thin skin and he easily will put his own personal insult before US national interest.

DISGUSTING.