[David Strom's Web Informant] December 22, 2014: The sad ironies of the Sony affair

David Strom david at strom.com
Mon Dec 22 11:47:49 EST 2014

Web Informant, December 22, 2014: The sad ironies of the Sony affair

I have been spending time studying up on what actually happened at Sony
over the past month. There has been a tremendous amount of inaccurate
reporting, and a dearth of factual information. Let's try to set that
record a bit straighter. From where I sit, the attack and the activity
about the movie were two separate events and were probably caused by at
least two separate entities. Assigning blame across both of them to the
same actor is ludicrous.

First, the sad irony of a company that deliberately injects malware into
their products <http://blog.strom.com/wp/?p=59> being hacked yet again.
While many, including President Obama, were quick to assign blame to the
North Koreans, the actual initial breech appears to be the work of a Sony
insider who could guide the hackers toward specific servers and IP
addresses.Certainly, this level of detail could have sussed out with lots
of clever hacking, but the simple explanation is a dissatisfied former
employe, of which there are many.

Second, the sad irony of the press becoming so enthralled with the sordid
details of the leaked content that they so forgot their actual duty in
telling the story of what happened. They share the blame with the hackers,
who knew exactly how to manipulate them and feed our hunger for celebrity

The third irony is that Sony's security should have been better: this isn't
their first rodeo and certainly now wont be their last. Storing passwords
as plain text, using the word "password" or other commonly guessed words,
and having no mechanism to monitor the exfiltrated data were all shameful
practices. What is doubly wrong is that they have had numerous
opportunities to improve their IT procedures, and haven't.

Ironic that their passwords were so poor that a security researcher was
able to inject a fake Sony SSL certificate by guessing one of them.
Thankfully, this wasn't a deliberate hack, just a demonstration of how easy
Sony's procedures could be circumvented.

Ironic too are all the calls for posting the movie on various online
streaming services to counter the cancelled Christmas Day release. So the
way to combat censorship, even self-imposed, is to take your content to the
cloud, so that more people can see your movie. Wasn't this was many private
citizens were asking the MPAA to let them do when they posted movies online?

Also ironic are stories about how the MPAA and Sony were using denial of
service methods to try to keep people from seeing their movies, including
The Interview. See irony #1 about injecting malware, etc. And how ironic
was it that the peer file sharing services actually working in cooperation
with the movie studios to take down the leaked content, including some
copies of pre-released movies, quickly once the hackers uploaded them?

Also ironic how one of the first things that our government is asking for a
joint effort with the Chinese to cooperate in controlling this hack:
perhaps the same unit within the Chinese government that we recently
indicted for cyber espionage could be used? Granted there is a line between
espionage and criminal hacking, or at least there used to be one.

Finally, while not ironic it is sad that the film's creators so insisted on
using the actual name of a living president in their film. While not the
first time this has happened
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_a_President_%282006_film%29>, they
could have scored their satire points by going the Chaplin/Great Dictator
route which doesn't actually name Hitler but in every other way goes about
pillorying him. Certainly, you can't blame the North Koreans on this point:
had someone used a similar plot line with our president, chances are even
our bumbling Secret Service would have been all over that one too.

If you want to read a very solid collection of the various events of the
past month, the folks at Risk Based Security (a Virginia security VAR) are
worth your time and clicks
They continue to add to their coverage as new events unfold.

So what are some action items you can take? Here are a few:

   - Understand that all it takes is an unhappy employee with a thumb drive
   and basic file copying skills. You should think about your HR and data leak
   prevention policies accordingly.
   - Get thy passwords in order, puh-leeze. This isn't something that will
   cost megabucks.
   - It is way past time to encrypt your email, especially if you
   communicate with global brands And even if you don't, still more the reason.

And to wrap up, I want to quote S. Cobb's blog
he says:

"Rather than berate those who are being realistic about our current
weaknesses, let's put our anger and our energy into demanding companies and
governments do a better job of securing our digital assets and defending
the digital world."

Comments and links to the above items, including a funny bit from Dr. Evil,
can be found here: http://blog.strom.com/wp/?p=4658
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