Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 18, 2014

We can see the future battle order

Filed under: Cybersecurity — by Philip J. Palin on December 18, 2014

0210Russian Imperial Fleet under attack at Port Arthur (February 1904)

It sounds like a stupid film.  Good riddance.

But someone — almost certainly North Koreans, probably with paid help — successfully attacked and digitally destroyed a leading multinational corporation.

Then this week they made gratuitous threats of a Christmas Day kinetic attack.

Response so far: Basically total capitulation.

We have been warned of a Cyber-Pearl Harbor.

We probably just experienced our Battle of Port Arthur.  In making the comparison I do not predict the rise of an imperial Pyongyang.  But just as the Japanese showed the Russians (and others) that naval power was more than a European skill, we have been shown another powerful asymmetry arising.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

December 18, 2014 @ 8:19 am

Is SONY an American or Japanese corporation?

Comment by Bruce Martin

December 18, 2014 @ 10:33 am

How was the capitulation decided? in terms of business profit/loss/liability? By a private concern vs a government? Does that matter?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 18, 2014 @ 11:52 am

The US corporate subsidiary of a Japanese-based global conglomerate capitulated under pressure from their customers and competitors to remove a possible distraction to Christmas day merry and money making. I have no idea how the US or other GOVs may have been involved in the decision.

The movie-going public reacted to this digital attack — and the threat of a kinetic follow-on — with a signal that they would be keeping their distance. Hollywood and its distribution partners began to see the whole Christmas season deep-sixing. Sacrifice the movie. Sacrifice the principle?

While there may be plenty to critique here, I’m not meaning to do so (yet). I’m just suggesting we probably ought not underestimate what current and future cyber-attackers are choosing to learn from all this.

Comment by Bruce Martin

December 18, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

And, on the flip side, there’s what we’ve learned from them.

I saw a media statement (can’t find the link) that the loss of pulling the movie was a far smaller hit to the quarter than the potential loss if a violent event occurred at a theater. Producers have made the “straight to video” choice before, so they must be aware of the fiscal impact. Thus, my notion that it was a business decision rather than a statement of principle or policy.

I suppose if corporations are people, we can expect a range of people responses including heroic, selfless, calculating, self-interested, etc.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

December 18, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

John Robb of Global Guerillas and author of a Brave New War has some excellent insights on this and other points of view with regard to this emerging situation.

For me its a mild curiosity with regard to Korea/Japanese relations as well. I cannot say it had any impact but their past history is littered with atrocities (mostly from WWII) and bellicose activities up to the present day. Even though Sony is an international company it is still Japanese in origin, hence my thoughts on it.

The use of rootkits by Sony in their CD heyday also brings some behavioral activities under scrutiny. It cannot be overlooked.

And the advent of STUXNET and FLAME and other cyber activities may have opened the floodgates insofar as a new or more emergent cyber frontier.

Is it safe to assume that there are some insurance protocols built into production and distribution? That may have hastened the decision to pull the movie. Wired Magazine details the case against the North Koreans as flimsy;


So what if its not Korea? What if its a China/Russia/Independent actor gig? Whether state or stateless changes the dialogue.

Russia in economic trouble, ISIS, hacking, Pakistan school deaths, and (Bush vs Clinton II?) overlaid on Ferguson and New York; very interesting times. Maybe the hackers are tied in with all those who want to thwart the commute tomorrow…

A brave new war indeed.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 19, 2014 @ 12:07 am

Everybody seems cheered this holiday season by cheaper gas. But what if all commodity prices go into deflationary free fall?

The Japanese for last two decades seemed to be unable to handle deflation IMO!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 19, 2014 @ 12:09 am

Could the Internet itself be considered a clear and present danger?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 19, 2014 @ 5:05 am

Dan: Thanks for the Wired link. Great example of carefully restrained forensic journalism.

Hollywood is often ballyhooed as a premier example of American soft power. Based on the trailer for The Interview, if I was a North Korean elite I would perceive the film as a pretty harsh slap of soft power. Even if we take Guardians of Peace at their insistently non-state-actor word, they have explicitly (successfully) targeted another non-state-actor for what is seen as its threatening behavior.

Which to me begins to sound like the sort of conflict that perpetually arose between petty nobility in medieval Europe or late Zhou China or any number of places and eras characterized by diffused power. The crucial difference being the power-projection abilities of these petty players are now much multiplied.

Comment by Zeeb

December 19, 2014 @ 6:40 am

So now extreme Islamists will threaten not only the publisher but also news stands that sell a magazine with satirical drawings of Mohammed? Or maybe a tram with someone who is reading it?

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 19, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

President in news conference says N. Korea the culprit and SONY made a mistake in withdrawing movie from release!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 20, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

Is HOLLYWOOD a so-called NATIONAL ICON? See CIP literature!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 22, 2014 @ 9:48 am

Just out of curiosity what response would readers of this blog suggest to the attack on SONY?

And Chairman Rogers [KY-R] says on TV we [the US] should already have responded!

MSM reporting that the Administration has no idea how it should respond.

President Obama also said the SONY attack was NOT an Act of War!

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 22, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

In a report released last fall to the public but dated March 2014, the Annual National Preparedness Report mandated by statute check out the discussion of cybersecurity:


Comment by William R. Cumming

December 24, 2014 @ 3:00 am

I don’t have it but I understanding there has been a Presidential finding signed that the attack on SONY was a NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT!

So the DEEP STATE now expends efforts to protect its corporate citizens and further shifts the costs of technology from its developers and operators to the taxpayer.

I herby suggest that each individual and family incorporate their entity’s under the laws of their states of residence. Perhaps costs of incorporation should be included in closing costs when buying your McMansion?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 24, 2014 @ 5:40 am


Your occasional comments on the DEEP STATE finally caused me to read Mike Lofgren’s essay. It is a good piece. Thanks.

I have operated at the edge of the DEEP STATE for most of the last couple of decades, maybe longer.Though, as Lofgren writes of himself, “neither totally in it by virtue of full membership nor of it by psychological disposition.”

As you would anticipate, I am also attracted to Lofgren’s ancient Roman analogies. His experiential and historical arguments are in most respects accurate… at least in my experience and reading of history.

But I think he gives insufficient attention to a crucial factor: The power of the DEEP STATE depends on the Constitutional State being distracted.

Lofgren describes a distracted Constitutional State, but he implies that the DEEP STATE is as a magician purposefully distracting the audience. It is my experience that the Constitutional State — both contemporary and in late Republican Rome — can be mostly self-distracting. Juvenal (the Jon Stewart of his time) blamed “bread and circuses”, I blame consumerism and sports and preoccupation with process. Baubles and petty passions and discouragement of original thought dilute the close attention that reality requires. It is too easy for the human animal to fall into varied fantasies.

I don’t have a systemic solution. It is tough enough for me to maintain some ability to focus. But I can report that when there is an ability to focus and be mostly affirmative and to engage with others in actual thinking — even the DEEP STATE is not a bad garden in which to plant and harvest.

“Count it the greatest sin… to lose what makes life worth living for the sake of living.” (Juvenal)

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