Welcome!

Government Cloud Authors: Liz McMillan, Gopala Krishna Behara, Raju Myadam, Kevin Jackson, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Cloud Security, Government Cloud

@CloudExpo: Blog Feed Post

The Sony Hack, It’s Still Not War Or Terrorism | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

The term “act of war” has been used by some, most notably former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senator John McCain

The Sony Hack, It’s Still Not War Or Terrorism

By SeanLawson

For more than a decade we have heard constant warnings about the coming of “cyber war” and “cyber terrorism.” The prophets of cyber doom have promised that cyber attacks are just around the corner that will be on par with natural disasters or the use of weapons of mass destruction. With every new report of a cyber attack, the prophets exclaim that their visions have finally come to pass, and so it is with the most recent attack against Sony. But in most prior cases, after the dust has settled, the belated arrival of cyber war, terrorism, or doom has failed to live up to the initial hype. The same will be the case with the Sony hack. It is neither war nor terrorism as those terms are commonly defined. It certainly is not cyber doom.

Are We There Yet? Not So Fast

The term “act of war” has been used by some, most notably former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senator John McCain, to describe the Sony hack, which the FBI attributes to North Korea. When people are using this term, what they really mean is that it is an “armed attack,” an act that can justify the use of force in self defense.

But the Sony hack does meet the common definition of that term. The best current guidelines for when a cyber attack can be considered an armed attack come from the NATO Tallinn Manual. The manual’s lead author has analyzed the Sony case and has concluded that it is not an armed attack.

The cyber operation against Sony involved the release of sensitive information and the destruction of data. In some cases, the loss of the data prevented the affected computers from rebooting properly. Albeit highly disruptive and costly, such effects are not at the level most experts would consider an armed attack.

This is because to qualify as armed attack, an action generally must result in “substantial injury or physical damage.” Some of the authors of the Tallinn Manual would also consider an act “resulting in a State’s economic collapse” to be an armed attack. Clearly, the Sony hack fits neither of those descriptions.

If the Sony hack is not war, then maybe it is terrorism. Some have argued that the United States should just “declare” that acts like this are terrorism and their perpetrators terrorists. Though the term “terrorism” has been notoriously ambiguous, nonetheless, it does not mean just anything. In fact, we have a definition of terrorism in U.S. Code:

(1) the term “international terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum

The Sony case fails to meet this definition, and for the same reasons it fails to meet the definition of armed attack: there was no physical harm. Sure, the hack appears to have been for the purposes of coercing or intimidating a civilian organization and to have transcended international boundaries. But it did not “involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life” and thus fails to meet the very first requirement of the definition regardless of whatever later parts of the definition may fit. Do not pass go.

Another possibility is that the Sony hack is an example of a sub-category of terrorism, so-called “cyber terrorism,” whose definition could potentially include a wider range of effects. More than a decade ago, Dorothy Denning provided (PDF) one of the clearest and most widely accepted definitions of “cyber terrorism.”

Cyberterrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace. It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks and threats of attack against computers, networks, and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives. Further, to qualify as cyberterrorism, an attack should result in violence against persons or property, or at least cause enough harm to generate fear. Attacks that lead to death or bodily injury, explosions, plane crashes, water contamination, or severe economic loss would be examples. Serious attacks against critical infrastructures could be acts of cyberterrorism, depending on their impact. Attacks that disrupt nonessential services or that are mainly a costly nuisance would not.

There is more room for debate about whether the Sony hack meets this definition, but it still seems like a stretch. Though economic effects are contemplated, those that would qualify are described as “severe” or directed against “critical infrastructure,” not “nonessential services.” The implication seems to be that the economic consequences should be national in scope, not against one private entity. Though Sony may take a large financial hit as a result of the attack, it is hard to imagine that there will be “severe” impacts on the national economy as a result. It is also a stretch to argue that Sony’s services are “essential.”

Confusing Causes with Effects

It seems clear that the Sony hack does not meet these definitions of war, terrorism, or cyber terrorism. So why are so many using these terms? One answer is fear-induced overreaction. Another, more cynical answer is militaristic animus. One or both of these may play some role for some individuals. But another factor is a fundamental confusion, whether purposeful or inadvertent, of causes and effects in cyber conflict, an issue I have discussed at length elsewhere and to which I will call attention once more.

In each case, the definitions examined above are “effects based.” That is, an attack is an armed attack, is terrorism, or is cyber terrorism based on its effects. If those effects meet certain criteria, cross a certain threshold, then they meet the definition. In each case, physical harm to humans or property is a key criteria or threshold. Denning’s definition of cyber terrorism adds some kinds of severe economic effects. But it is still an effects based definition.

In public debates about the meaning of incidents like the Sony hack, we see a number of disturbing tendencies. We see a tendency to define what counts as war, terrorism, or cyber terrorism based on who conducted the attack and/or what instruments were used in the attack, that is, a shift towards an actor or instrument, as opposed to effects, based definition. In this new scheme, it is tempting to say that if a terrorist group uses cyber instruments, then the incident is cyber terrorism regardless of what actual damage is done. Similarly, it is tempting to say that if a foreign military or intelligence service, especially of a hostile nation, uses cyber instruments in a malicious way, then the incident is armed attack, again, regardless of actual damage done.

Expanding the Definitions of War and Terrorism

The implications of this confusion should be as clear as they are dangerous. Those who call for affixing the war or terrorism label to the Sony hack are not just encouraging us to reconsider how we think about malicious acts in cyberspace. Instead, they are, perhaps inadvertently, encouraging us to redefine what counts as war and terrorism. In doing so, the definitions of both of those terms become absurdly and dangerously broad. Suddenly, financial loss for a multinational media company and embarrassment for its CEO from leaked emails is “war” like World War II or “terrorism” like the attacks of September 11, 2001. This is absurd.

But it is also dangerous. When we accept certain events as really, truly being war or terrorism, then we accept certain kinds of responses to those events that we otherwise would not. We accept the use of physical violence, or actions that could escalate to physical violence, in response to these kinds of events when such responses would not be seen as acceptable if these events were defined differently. To say that the Sony hack is an armed attack by North Korea is to say that it would be legitimate and acceptable for the United States to launch a physical attack on North Korea in response. Some will say, “That is unrealistic. The United States would not actually do that!” But that misses the point. By seriously calling the Sony hack an armed attack or terrorism, we are saying, in effect, “Even though the United States is unlikely to launch a physical attack in response, it would be acceptable for it to do so.” In fact, it would not be.

We should not diminish the seriousness of what happened to Sony. The Sony incident is emblematic of very serious and longstanding threats to cyber security. Indeed, while the world focused on the Sony case, news broke of yet another massive data breach at a major retailer, this time Staples, where information from over one million payment cards was stolen. The Sony incident is a warning that the impacts of such data breaches can be even worse, going far beyond stolen credit card data. But hysterical screams of “terrorism” and “war” are not a serious response to a serious problem. What’s more, such hysterical responses risk broadening the definitions of these terms in a way that is both absurd and dangerous. It is time to take a deep breath and return from the “realm of beyond stupid” before we do something, well, stupid.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com

@ThingsExpo Stories
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...