3 Online Security Lessons from the Sony Pictures Hack
In the wake of the late November malware attack on Sony Pictures that wiped thousands of company computers and compromised huge amounts of internal corporate data, the picture keeps looking worse and worse the more we hear about it. Some are calling it the worst corporate hack in history. They’re probably not wrong. The hackers’ stated objective was to disrupt Sony and prevent the release of “The Interview,” a recently, cautiously, released Sony Pictures film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that pokes fun at North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Unreleased movies, scripts, HR documents regarding employee compensation and hiring practices, and executives’ private emails were all included in the leak, which has caused quite a stir in the media. But while Sony the company is likely to be busy cleaning up the aftermath of this debacle for quite some time, the worst part of this attack may be the collateral damage to Sony employees—ordinary citizens who never expected something like this could happen to them. Nearly 50,000 Social Security numbers of current and former Sony employees dating back years were compromised, along with passwords, home addresses, and contact information. Sony’s employees never expected this would happen, and some of them will be dealing with the consequences of this for the rest of their lives. The incident should serve as a reminder to the rest of us of the importance of online security. Here are three lessons to take away. 1. Nothing you put online is private Let me repeat that. Nothing you put online is private. Not your Facebook photos, not your instant messages, not your Amazon shopping cart, not your emails. Online banking, which uses very strong encryption schemes, is relatively safe, but still vulnerable to some types of attack. Especially in this day and age where the “Internet of Everything” revolution seems just around the corner, remember that anything that has a power button could be connected to the Internet. Whenever you have a choice, think long and hard about what information of yours you might be releasing onto the Internet. 2. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… If there’s something you know you should be doing to improve your personal online security, don’t wait. Do it now. That “soccerfanDan94” password on your Gmail? Ditch it for something more secure. Use different passwords for each different online account you’re signed up for. If you must have a backup of your passwords to avoid forgetting them, don’t store them on your computer. Write them down on paper somewhere. Preferably in more than one place so that no one slip gives someone all of your information. Invest in the most comprehensive and up-to-date antivirus software you can afford. If you’re a business proprietor or executive, don’t skimp on IT—especially if your company or companies like it have been targeted by hackers before. 3. …but no system is impenetrable. One of the unfortunate facts of the Sony case is that this is not the first time the company has been successfully hacked. We don’t know for sure what Sony’s information security program is like, but it’s clear that there are and still remain many vulnerabilities in their systems for hackers to exploit. If a company you work for or a company you have trusted with your personal data comes under attack and is inadequately prepared to handle the attack, you may be powerless to stop the breach of your personal information. For this reason, it is still wise to limit the amount of information you provide to the barest minimum required and to keep a close eye on the news and your credit card bill.

  • Richard

    I agree. A wise businessman in the Caribbean named Sir Kyffin Simpson always said that the key to success is progression and humility, and clearly he’s done very well for himself as a self made man!

  • John Andrews

    The Airgain IPO launches this week, and they’re a one-brand company.

    Some investors don’t think it’s a good stock though:

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/3997291-risky-signals-antenna-maker-airgain-launches-ipo

  • Cincinnati World Cinema

    Well said, Joe, and worth rereading on a regular basis! Another advantage of small-to-midsize city living is pace and competition. Living in NYC, LA and SF entailed a hectic pace, hallmarked by capital S striving, as one realized there were a ton of others doing what I do. Spending so much time in one’s car in SoCal meant much less time for quality pursuits and pleasures. A smaller pond with relaxed pace allows one to savor life and special moments.


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