The hacking of technology conglomerate Sony allegedly by North Korea, of all countries, and the subsequent shelving of “The interview,” which depicts an assassination attempt on the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un continues to attract quite a bit of unexpected attention. Aside from “A”-list celebrities and news outlets concerned about threats to their lives and their First Amendment freedoms, the Sony hacking scandal has even garnered remarks from President Obama.
One must question, however, whether the US President has a legitimate interest in punishing Korea for attacking Sony. After all, Sony is a Japanese transinternational corporation, not an American business. Sony does, of course, operates within the US and its status as a major global electronics producer creates a very solid economic reason for all governments to protect it and other businesses around the world from cyber attacks by foreign entities.
From a more pessimistic view, President Obama’s brazen call to arms in defense of Sony is a sign of the same-old Washington run by special interests continuing to cater to the corporate world. At the very least, it would appear the President is trying to win some political clout for himself and the Democratic Party by demonstrating the value of government to corporations, i.e. the Left will help protect you from cyber attacks.
For those businesses that are willing to shed their “corporate citizenship” in order to dodge taxes and/or undermine proper regulation, Sony’s inability to protect itself demonstrates why governments are needed to provide for the security of their homelands and the International Community. It also demonstrates why governments need stable funding through the taxation of earnings, which must also include the revenue of wealthy corporations.
That said, it is also important to recognize that China and a multitude of other developing nations have been involved in corporate espionage against Westernized companies for decades. Unfortunately, there have been too few punitive measures for doing so. As such, it would appear the main reason North Korea is under so much fire for its alleged involvement in the hacking of Sony is that North Korea is far less significant to global economy than China and the US already has a thoroughly adversarial relationship with the North.
Then again, the alleged actions of North Korea do not simply involve corporate espionage. Where China has hacked US military and other government networks, as well as private computer systems in order to find a competitive edge over its economic rivals, the Sony hacking was done to suppress the artistic expression of those who created the film and suppress political dissent, i.e. the very heart of American democracy.
It seems Kim Jong-Un is far more sensitive to ridicule than his predecessors were while his willingness to risk a cyber war that could escalate into the real world over an insulting piece of entertainment demonstrates the great leader has a far more egocentric, narcissistic personality than the world assumes. It also suggests the regime is feeling particularly insecure for some reason, which may be related to reports in the fall that suggested something like a coup attempt may have actually occurred.
Furthermore, it is also surprising that President Obama reacted to the news of the Sony hacking without much hesitation. Over his Presidency, Mr. Obama has built a reputation for waiting too long to respond to events, because he wants to respond after all the facts are known. Although the FBI has found evidence that North Korea was involved in the hacking of Sony, the North denies the allegations, thus the uncertainly of the accusation makes his reaction unusual.
Given China has great influence over North Korea and the North recognizes the need to free itself from Chinese influence by building some kind of a relationship with the US and the West, there are plenty of ulterior motives to suggest North Korea may not be lying when claims it had nothing to do with the hacking or the threats. Meanwhile, it isi important to remember Russia also wants to kindle its own relationship with North Korea. Improved ties with Washington would complicate their efforts.
Consequently, President Obama’s newfound boldness in how he reacts to events may well not be the most prudent way to engage unfolding security threats. On the other hand, there are compelling reasons for the US President to tackle cyber security threats that target corporations. Cyber security is an international threat to political freedom, freedom of speech, economic stability, and financial freedom.
Moreover, the Obama Administration is right to offer a strong response to the hacking of Sony, but the US government, the governments of the world, and corporations need to do more to address cyber security threats before they materialize into damaging security breaches. They also need to respond with meaningful policy decisions instead of reacting with threats, which may never materialize given North Korea’s thorough isolation.
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