12.17.14

Seth Rogen’s digital Pearl Harbor

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 4:35 pm by George Smith

What happens when hackers from North Korea, according to the US government, threaten the American arm of an entertainment giant, Sony, over a mediocre-to-crappy movie, Seth Rogen’s The Interview, set to open Xmas Day?

Americans fold. Despite the lack of any actual credible threat of violence, three big theater chains backed out of showing it and Sony pulled the plug at the same time the US government was attempting to finger North Korea. (Here’s the NY Times piece with the usual array of unattributed sources.)

For the sake of amusement, let’s take a look at Variety’s review of the movie:

North Korea can rest easy: America comes off looking at least as bad as the DPRK in “The Interview,” an alleged satire that’s about as funny as a communist food shortage, and just as protracted. For all its pre-release hullabaloo — including two big thumbs down from Sony hackers the Guardians of Peace — this half-baked burlesque about a couple of cable-news bottom-feeders tasked with assassinating Korean dictator Kim Jong-un won’t bring global diplomacy to its knees, but should feel like a kind of terror attack to any audience with a limited tolerance for anal penetration jokes. Extreme devotees of stars James Franco and Seth Rogen (who also co-directed with Evan Goldberg) may give this Christmas offering a pass, but all others be advised: An evening of cinematic waterboarding awaits.

That’s cold.

Variety’s Scott Foundas wrote the review on the 12th, a day after a showing in Hollywood. And the only thing wrong with its lede graph is that, yes, someone was brought to their knees. Sony and Rogen.

This morning, as Senior Fellow for GlobalSecurity.Org, I was interviewed by the Voice of America on the matter. And the best I could say was that Sony had handled everything very badly.

It stumbled into being a shit magnet. Publicity stemming from the culture of lickspittle’s love of celebrity voyeurism served hackers beyond what anyone might have imagined.

Sony is a corporation that is probably too big and sprawling to ever secure on today’s Internet. The nature of its employees, its business and they way everything is now exposed on the global network make it impossible. Just as they do with lots of other big American corporations recently victimized by hackers in massive break-ins. (Part of the occasional Computer Security for the 1 Percent series.)

Once again, the amount of data lost to the net was stupefying. Said to be the equivalent of ten Libraries of Congress, everybody’s e-mail, their credentials, plans, billions of files.

Ten terabytes. How do you analyze, even look, at all of it? No one can.

Computer security experts may lie and say it’s doable but that’s all rubbish, the only thing noticeable being the scandalous, impolitic and rude bits, ephemera, of great interest to the media for all the numbingly predictable reasons.

Sony’s problem is that by canceling the movie it will take at least a 30-40 million dollar loss. Catalyzing it was the laughably poor behavior of the theater chains that pulled the movie from their thousands of screens for Xmas day.

Another problem with long range ramifications is that the corporate response has very obviously crashed morale company-wide. Bring on the fear and loathing and embedded institutional paranoia! It’s a great environment for an entertainment giant reliant on the labor of creative people.

I’ve come to expect absurd, timorous and counter-productive behavior from Americans, particularly the very important people who are in charge of things. I suspect many others have the same impression.

Today the bleak humor of US reality is better than anything Hollywood could have put on the screen. God knows, it has certainly given Seth Rogen enough material for the next couple years.

For example, over the holidays Rogen can contemplate how he, his jokes about stuff being stuffed up the butt written while baked, Sony, a hack of an entertainment company (for cryin’ out loud), and silly threats about nationwide attacks on theaters, have given the President yet another headache. [1] One that will force him into eventually making a meaningless statement coupled with the appearance of doing something.

When there’s nothing to do. Sony isn’t going to fail.

Retaliate? Against North Korea for allegedly sending hackers to derail a movie that includes:

The slow-acting poison [ricin] with which the characters are meant to contaminate Kim, concealed on a small adhesive strip, practically begs to be passed around like a hot potato, or perhaps lost in a Band-Aid factory, but all we get is a rather lame bit about [Rogen] having to conceal the poison (and its large conical container) inside his rectum.

Seriously. Ricin, yet! Always ricin. Ricin up yer ass! Genius!

By now you should be howling with laughter. Not at the movie, of course, but with what’s happened due to it. It’s the only rational response.

Seth Rogen was paid $8.4 million for the thing. And that brings us back to one of the characteristics of computer security stories for the 1 percent. The people who are paid everything don’t lose anything, really. They’re too important.

A momentary embarrassment over the holidays, perhaps. Six months from now Seth Rogen will be doing something else for a few million more.

Maybe he’ll even get to write a book about it. Something about digital Pearl Harbor. How his battleship was scuttled.


Picked on a paranoid country with the biggest national inferiority complex on the planet, North Korea. Lost and was deserted by his sponsors.


1. Rolling Stones’ story on Rogen, today, lede graph:

It’s not every day you get to sit down with the guys who might be responsible for starting World War III. And it’s definitely not every day that they’re getting baked when you do.

“Hell-o!” booms Seth Rogen on a June afternoon as the door to his L.A. office swings open, revealing him and comedy partner/hetero lifemate Evan Goldberg preparing to take a mighty hit from a bong.


The technology aspect of the story is much less interesting than what is shown about the psychology of a big company. It’s a house of cards.

We know large corporations deal with threats by either ignoring them, dispatching an army of lawyers and fixers or government capture. In this case, Sony had nothing going for it. The lawyers had nobody to go after. The op-ed pieces didn’t work. The rather astonishing publicity did not make theater chains confident.

What did it do, though? Dispatched lawyers to threaten journalists.

UPDATE

Quote from Variety, emblematic of what’s wrong with Sony’s management: “We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public.”

The “American public” was not damaged. I wasn’t. Do you feel damaged?


With the movie canceled nationwide on Xmas day, there is one thing left that Sony, or some of its employees (and perhaps soon to be ex-employees) can do. Even Seth Rogen could do it.

Leak The Interview to the net. If it hasn’t already been done. [2]

There’s only one way to stop it then.

A real digital Pearl Harbor, one of the parts of it that all the national security experts like to talk about: Switching off the power in the US.


2. An idea, coincidentally, endorsed by Mitt Romney.


Mirrored, at GlobalSecurity. Share, share, share, share, share.

4 Comments

  1. Ted Jr. said,

    December 19, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Sorry, I’m not buying any of this. It stinks of a setup, backed up by a high school theatrical presentation. All of these so called ‘hacks’ turn out to be nothing at the end of it all. Stratford? Turns out to be the brainchild of an F-B-I snitch. Lulzsec? the art of penetration. Occupy ? Limited hangout… TeaParty? Place for the Republican castoffs to congregate.

    And on it goes. By dividing the population into tiny little subsets polarised into opinion structures, opposition is not only controlled, but led and the ultimate destination is the starting point so the cycle may repeat again.

    I agree with DD that the whole situation is comical, BUT, when these events turn out to re-ignite “debate” on an ongoing agenda which is yet to be implemented, then I call BS on the whole process. More amateur theatrics for the hopelessly credulous.

    Remember, to the old line Hollywood moguls, there was no such thing as “bad” publicity.

  2. George Smith said,

    December 19, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Apparently they have forgotten it.

    Here’s today’s IQ test, simple, one question: If you think this is a serious national security event, you flunk.

  3. Tom Paterson said,

    December 20, 2014 at 2:21 am

    Disregarding Wittgenstein’s lion, Jeff Goldblum’s hack of the mother ship was more plausible (especially if you saw the deleted scenes on DVD).

  4. George Smith said,

    December 20, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Guffaw. Never saw the DVD.