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How well do you think your personal data is protected?
What if you learn one day that all of it belongs to an unknown and untraceable group of hackers?
Well, that’s exactly how reality looked like to more than 7,000 employees at Sony Pictures following the days after November 24, 2014.
Amanda Hess goes “Inside the Sony Hack” to reveal us “what it was like to be a rank-and-file Sony employee as the unprecedented cyber attack tore the company apart.”
Who Should Read “Inside the Sony Hack”? And Why?
On May 25, 2018, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – a regulation in EU law on data protection – in an attempt to give European citizens and residents more control over their personal data.
It’s too early to tell whether it will work or not – but it’s late enough to claim that it was more than necessary.
Ever since 1903 when Nevil Maskelyne hacked a public demonstration of Marconi’s wireless telegraphy technology, the words “secure” and “hackers” seem to form a troubling pair, which, in real-world terms, means a long Wikipedia article titled “Timeline of computer security hacker history.”
Since everything is now globalized and you exist much more in the virtual than in the real world, everything related to online protection and hack attacks should interest you.
This article is about one of the most infamous events of this kind: the Sony Pictures hack attack.
And tells the story from the point of view of the rank-and-file workers.
So, most probably, people just like you.
About Amanda Hess
Amanda Hess is a David Carr fellow at the “New York Times,” “an old-school reporter with a supermodern sensibility, and funny as hell.”
She started her journalistic career as a columnist on sex and sex-related topics for the “Washington City Paper,” before moving on to write and edit the lifestyle section of “GOOD” magazine.
After that, she co-founded “Tomorrow,” a magazine about the future, but the journal turned out to be just a one-shot publication.
Hess soon became a regular contributor to “Slate” magazine, writing articles about women and internet culture, which ultimately won her the Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Award.
In addition, her “Pacific Standard” article “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet” has won her numerous awards.
“Inside the Sony Hack PDF Summary”
Have you watched “The Interview”?
If not, here’s a quick reminder:
At first glance, it looks almost too goofy to deserve mention in a summary, let alone start an international Cold War.
And yet – it basically did!
Way before it was supposed to be released – that is, in June 2014 – the North Korean government threatened the United States that it may be forced to retaliate if Columbia Pictures (a member of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group) ever released the movie.
Columbia took the threat seriously and started re-editing the movie, pushing back its release date from October to December 2014.
But, in the meantime – a terrible thing happened.
Namely, on November 24, 2014, the computer system of Columbia’s parent company, Sony, was hacked.
Upon arriving at work, its employees were treated with a short and spooky cartoon playing on few of the company’s computers.
Its content: a gravestone marked “SONY,” a smiling pink skeleton, and the severed heads of Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, the studio bosses.
And also – a neon-green message in broken English:
We’ve already warned you, and this is just a beginning. We continue till our request be met … Wei-ve obtained all your internal data including your secrets and top secrets. If you doni-t obey us, we-ll release data shown below to the world.
The signature: “Hacked by #GOP.”
The data in question: personal information about Sony employees and their families, executive salaries, controversial e-mails, copies of unreleased Sony films, as well as other compromising data.
Speaking of which –
Some of it has probably already reached you.
Like, say, Amy Pascual’s dislike of Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha,” Scott Rudin thinking that Angelina Jolie is a brat, or Aaron Sorkin not even knowing who Michael Fassbender is.
Also, you’re probably aware that after a threat of terrorist attacks which the GOP (ironically, short for Guardians of Peace) posted on December 16 explicitly mentioning “The Interview,” Seth Rogen and James Franco cancelled all media appearances and Sony pulled the film before being urged by Barack Obama to change its decision.
But what about the 7,000 workers whose private lives were affected by the hack?
Do you know anything about them?
Probably not – because no one reports about the fortunes and misfortunes of the regular Joes.
Fortunately, Hess has done exactly that, and so we learn, for the first time, that employees were blocked from all their files and databases for weeks and that they had to rely on handwritten communications to go on working.
And when we say “go on working” we mean “doing all it takes to keep Sony afloat,” even if that means staying at work way beyond your work time or taking up tasks way outside your job description.
To make matters worse, just soon after the employees finally got their loaner computers and a temporary Internet connection, they also got a threatening email from GOP.
What they found out from it was morale-shattering:
The hackers had commandeered huge caches of personal data on the company’s rank and file—emails, yes, but also Social Security numbers, salary info, personnel reviews, and medical histories. In just one handy spreadsheet dumped in the wake of the hack, 3,803 Sony Pictures employees’ Social Security numbers were exposed.
And this wasn’t a joke: one of Sony’s employees lost everything after someone had misused the now publicly available personal information and hacked into her bank account.
The worst part?
The only thing the employees could do was assume that the same could happen to them and act appropriately to prevent it.
Sony, now knee-deep into potential billion-dollar losses and serious higher-echelon scandals, didn’t seem too bothered about the lower-ranking employees.
It took several lawsuits before the company finally agreed to pay for online protection services for all of its employees.
In fact, that’s the strangest part:
As a company, Sony was utterly transformed after the hack attack in terms of the way it protects the personal data of its employees.
Sometimes, it takes a mishap to move forward – and that’s exactly what Sony did after November 24, 2014.
And the workers?
Well, strangely enough, most of them continued as if nothing happened.
Only a small number of employees left the company or changed their behavior.
Nothing changed. Nothing at all,” noted Michael Lynton, “I still regularly see emails that make me say, ‘Really? We went through this for a year, and you’re still sending this?’ The technology is so compelling that—for whatever reason—people are still sending me emails that they would very much not like to see show up in another venue.
Key Lessons from “Inside the Sony Hack”
1. Art Still Matters
2. Hackers Can Hack into Almost Anything
3. When Even a Hack Attack Isn’t Enough
Art Still Matters
Who knew – art still mattered!
And it doesn’t even have to be high art!
Back in 2014, North Korea-sponsored hackers hacked into the computer system of Sony Pictures to prevent the company from releasing “The Interview,” an American action comedy which parodies North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un.
Hackers Can Hack into Almost Anything
The Sony Pictures hack was a massive attack, but it wasn’t even the worst of 2014.
That was the year when 32 million Yahoo! accounts were stolen and, even more notoriously, the year of Celebgate, when over 500 private pictures of female celebrities were released to the public.
Never ever use 123456 as a password!
You’re just making things easy for black hat hackers.
When Even a Hack Attack Isn’t Enough
You’d be sure that the Sony hack attack would at least profoundly alter the behavior of the employees who’ve suffered a year of stresses and anxieties because of it.
It basically didn’t.
Making you wonder: what does it have to happen so that people started paying some attention to their online privacy?
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“Inside the Sony Hack Quotes”
Our Critical Review
Published a year after the security breach – almost to the day – “Inside the Sony Hack” is an unsettling account of a hack attack of (at that time, at least) unprecedented magnitude.
The fact that it was neither the last nor the most devastating is just a further reminder that each and every one of us may be a target.
And that you should never – ever – skip an article such as this one.