Observing Thinking

Observing Thinking
Observing Thinking

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Law Lags Technology

I started writing this column on Dec 21, 2014 and while this subject may be somewhat dated by the time it’s published, the ramifications for technology’s effect on society are clearly important. I speak of the SONY hack on Nov 24, 2014 which contained the warning not to release the movie, “The Interview” and all of the news dominoes which fell as a result.

Besides the titillating revelations about who gossiped what to whom in Entertainment-Land, there is the much more important issue of blackmail and cyber-hacking between nation states. It’s one thing for a hacker in the US to invade your privacy with some silly malware and quite another for some foreign country (let’s say hypothetically it’’s north of South Korea) to blackmail a corporation based in Japan with offices in the USA.

The apparent reason for the hack was to retaliate for showing a movie that depicted the assassination of the leader of the northern Korean state (which seems, at best, disrespectful). But,for me, the most interesting issue is the clash of cultures. In the US we pride ourselves on being a representative democracy that reveres “private property” and in which the “freedom of expression” is sanctified (it is, after all, the very first amendment to our constitution).

Corporations ( the latest Supreme Court rulings notwithstanding) are not allowed to vote and are responsible only to their shareholders (despite the vision statements they issue laying out their responsibilities to the little people) On the other hand, the hackers purportedly work for an authoritarian, centralized society where there is no private property and no notion of the distinction between industrial espionage and government aggression. In other words, we make a distinction between actions between corporations and between governments and the hacker country does not. In this country if corp A is hacked by corp B, their formal legal recourse is decided by civil courts (Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations. Criminal cases involve an action that is considered to be harmful to society as a whole. (http://litigation.findlaw.com/filing-a-lawsuit/civil-cases-vs-criminal-cases-key-differences.html)

However, there is no clear body of international law about adjudicating conflicts involving aggressive hacking between Nations: “Today, the international community lacks consensus regarding the generally accepted principles of law applicable to cyber conflicts.”

(https://www.law.upenn.edu/institutes/cerl/conferences/cyberwar/papers/reading/Kanuck.pdf) This usually means is that if nation A plants a virus which cripples he centerfuges for refining nuclear material for nation B, rather than take A to International court, Nation B, like any normal third-grader will strike back with a hack of its own --- like swapping the internet links for Facebook and PornHub in the state of Georgia, for example.

The frustrating irony is that a democratic government responsible to its people seems to be losing this battle because a ruthless centralized state can act and respond more quickly and brutally.

Will this mean that our country will trade more of it’s citizens’ privacy and liberty for more security? Or, should we heed the Zen warning, “The best way to clear up muddy water is to leave it alone.” Or do we follow the advice of Thomas Jefferson and/or Patrick Henry, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Or try to strike a balance between the two strategies?

As I mentioned previously, I knew that many more dominoes were destined to fall since I first wrote this column on Dec 21, 2014. Here are just a few:

There is evidence that it was Iran and not North Korea that sponsored the SONY hack.(

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/12/29/sony-hack-iran-cyberattack-cyberwarfare-war-north-korea-threat-column/21014021/ ) Supposedly,those sneaky Iranians left false fingerprints in the code which pointed back to North Korea.

A defector plans to airdrop 100,000 DVDs of the movie from helium balloons into North Korea. He believes, as Charlie Chaplin did with “The Dictator”, that the best weapon against tyranny is satire and that once North Koreans view “The Interview”, Kim Jong-un will be laughed out of power. www.radiotimes.com/news/2015-01-02/the-interview-to-be-airdropped-into-north-korea-using-balloons

“The Interview” is to have "a wide release" in the UK and Ireland, Sony Pictures has confirmed.


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