As we go to press, the strange saga of the Sony hack is still unfolding in a surreal blending of the real and digital worlds. On the most basic level, this cyber attack has caused and will cause a lot of suffering for a lot of regular Sony employees who don’t deserve it. I’m not talking about Seth Rogan and his mid-level movie or Scott Rudin and his glib emails. Yes there has been an intense amount of damage done to the Sony Pictures empire and a business that feeds a lot of mouths. But I’m talking about something a little more day-to-day—the 1000s of people whose jobs became suddenly really hard if not impossible four weeks ago, because the network they work on has let them down and isn’t getting better anytime soon. Plus their personal details are now on the open market.
The scariest part of the Sony hack is not the most newsworthy. It’s fair enough for people to get up in arms about North Korea (if it was them) stealing our stuff and dictating our personal freedom to see a comedy. That’s all bad. But this hack has also revealed where we are as an economy when it comes to networks. We are far too dependent on them to do without them, we couldn’t compete without them because work would be so slow. But networks are also incredibly vulnerable unless they have been rigorously built and continuously maintained and unless real security is built into useable workflow. That’s hard to do because what makes things secure often makes them cumbersome and the opposite of “nimble.”
Companies are dependent on networks to function and this is an almost unimaginable setback to manufacturing at Sony. It’s also a chilling image for any company that is dependent on a network for infrastructure and is making do with a network that is less than professional. No matter what they try to say about “unprecedented” we know that Sony’s network and network practices were not everything they should have been. It’s hard to build and run a tight network especially one that has to support audio and video files as part of the daily routine of manufacturing and commerce. Most networks are not secure enough.
Just when we were starting to make friends with IT departments, just when some of the wariness had started to thaw, this event lays bare how dangerous and rudimentary networks really are. We’re not going back, but the Sony hack is going to change how we go forward in ways that are a long way from being clear.