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Cyberterrorism is a new type of cunning schemes that are applied by individuals and hacker teams that aim at affecting or destroying information systems and computer networks. Such attacks range from installing malicious software programs to the destruction of entire infrastructures. Although it is often almost impossible to identify hackers who are involved in such intrusions, there are different methods to improve a situation after the attack. The example of Sony cyberattacks will be closely discussed in this study. The main goal of this paper is to analyze the case of cyberattacks on Sony, discussing the existing evidence and alternative decisions that could have alleviated the negative impact of the incident on customers.
Sony was subjected to a large-scale elaborated cyberattack by an Internet hacker team called Anonymous. The team launched the attack as a response to the pursuit of several famous hackers (Takahashi, 2011). This invasion was one of the elements of the operation called Payback. The operation was a series of attacks that were aimed at bringing the company’s website down. However, Sony was not the only target of the hacker group. All companies that refused to acknowledge and support WikiLeaks were at risk of such attacks. The team members believed that Sony abused the judicial system as the company censored information about its products that its clients share with each other (Takahashi, 2011). The hackers warned that they would continue their wicked activities.
WikiLeaks published an enormous number of confidential government’s messages, which provoked protests among many large corporations. Sony sued a famous hacker, Hotz, for reversing “the PlayStation 3’s security system and posting “jailbreaking software that allows users to run unauthorized programs on their PS 3s” (Takahashi, 2011, para. 4). Therefore, the attack had political motives. In addition, the hackers stated that Sony violated the privacy of people. However, the company’s senior managers claimed that they had detected the cause of the first attack that had taken place several days before, and they blamed Anonymous for it. The hacker group denied its involvement in this incident (Tsukayama, 2011). These facts demonstrate that there was a highly sophisticated conspiracy that might have involved people throughout the world, including Sony’s employees. The company claimed that “hackers had broken into its PlayStation and Qriocity networks April 17-19 and may have released the personal and billing information of up to 77 million people” (Tsukayama, 2011, para. 6). It made Sony shoot down its Web site.
Although the hacker group denied its involvement, they had enough reasons for this attack. Anonymous is a clandestine team that performed operation Payback, and some of its members are related to “/b/” bulletin board, an online platform for anonymous communication. Usually, the hacker team organizes distributed denial of service attacks against disagreeable companies, for example, credit card organizations that stopped supporting WikiLeaks. A month before the first Sony attack, the group had started a 24-hour boycott against the company’s stores throughout the world. Also, the hackers attacked several other Web sites and the company’s employees. However, some other hacker groups might have been involved in this incident, but none of them took responsibility for it (“Update on Sony investigation,” 2014). Another possible reason might have been internal problems with servers of the company. However, the company did not comment on this suggestion. Among all potential reasons for this incident, the most probable was the hacker attack by Anonymous. Although the group claimed that its members had never been engaged in credit card theft, they had many opportunities and motives to do it. An investigation could not prove the group involvement, though some evidence was found (Tsukayama, 2011). Among the various details that the company revealed, one attracted particular attention. One of the company’s servers contained a file that was called “Anonymous.”
However, Sony could have prevented the escalation of the incident, but it did not make enough efforts. The company should have informed its customers about the first intrusion earlier. Also, Sony simply posted information about the breach of its security system on its Web site, which was not an adequate measure to notify consumers about the attack. Although Sony’s executive claimed that the company’s specialists had needed time to gather all information about the attack, it did not justify the company’s failure to inform customers as it took them one week. However, Sony undertook some effective actions to make it up to their customers. For example, the company provided all PlayStation Network users with additional security software (Tsukayama, 2011). It also gave them 30 days of premium service. In addition, the company provided its users with free access to its services for the period when the service was down. Therefore, the key decision criteria that guided the company’s actions were to maintain customers’ satisfaction and rebuild a corporate image. However, Sony’s attempt to minimize a negative impact was not successful.
Cyberattacks might affect any organization regardless of its size and status. Such crimes can bring significant damage to information systems and other infrastructure. However, the example of cyberattacks on Sony demonstrates that negative effect can be considerably reduced. Therefore, it is necessary to base all decisions related to this issue on the thorough estimation of the possible unfavorable outcomes.
Takahashi, D. (2011). Hacktivist group Anonymous launches “payback” cyber attack on Sony. Venture Beat. Web.
Tsukayama, H. (2011). Cyber attack was large-scale, Sony says. The Washington Post. Web.
Update on Sony investigation. (2014). Web.