By all accounts, Sony Pictures operated an unimaginably-vulnerable network where passwords were stored in a plain text file titled “passwords” but, according to Senator John McCain, it’s not Sony’s fault that their system was compromised.
It’s Obama’s fault.
“By effectively yielding to aggressive acts of cyber-terrorism by North Korea, that decision sets a troubling precedent that will only empower and embolden bad actors to use cyber as an offensive weapon even more aggressively in the future,” McCain said in a statement on Thursday.
“But, make no mistake. The need for Sony Pictures to make that decision ultimately arose from the Administration’s continuing failure to satisfactorily address the use of cyber weapons by our nation’s enemies,” he added.
Calling the processes used by the Guardians of Peace a “cyber weapon” is a bit of a stretch. There’s also very little any administration could have done to stop it. The responsibility lies solely with Sony and Sony Pictures.
Furthermore, the Guardians of Peace are a non-state actor. There have been reports and implications that North Korea was somehow involved, but it’s not entirely clear how and to what extent.
It would be easy to dismiss the entire incident and make a joke about Seth Rogen films, but John McCain is at least partially right.
While he wrongly accuses the Obama administration of being ultimately responsible, it does raise questions about our ability to counter threats in cyberspace. And the ironic thing is that some of those who are raising questions right now are those who seemingly believe any action taken by the intelligence community or the Department of Defense to counter cyber threats is the stuff of Skynet or 1984.
Last year Edward Snowden leaked a document showing that the intelligence community had prepared a list of potential cyber threats and drawn up plans to deal with them. Hairs were split and heads exploded.
Sony is responsible for safeguarding their own network, but the state could be left vulnerable to attack because some people are worried that the NSA is reading their Facebook page.