- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Americans are now trying to fathom that the nation is in a multidimensional cyberwar following North Korea’s strategic hack attack on a Hollywood studio, prompting the cancellation of an upcoming film, with an estimated loss of $200 million in revenue alone.

“It is time to stop being surprised by North Korea. This is just the latest in its decades of hostility toward the U.S. and our allies. Cyber attacks are just the newest escalation, joining North Korea’s advancing nuclear weapons and missile program in its arsenal. Cyber attacks are a grave threat to our national security. American lives could be lost as a consequence of cyber attacks against our critical infrastructure. Unfortunately the Administration has been slow to respond,” says Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “North Korea is attacking our infrastructure. It is also attacking our values. The decision to pull ‘The Interview’ from theaters unfortunately is a North Korean victory in its attack on our freedom. We better quickly respond comprehensively to defend freedom of speech in the face of terrorist threats and cyber attacks,” the California Republican adds.

The ever-succinct Newt Gingrich summarized with a tweet, “No one should kid themselves. With the Sony collapse America has lost its first cyberwar. This is a very very dangerous precedent.” Mitt Romney recommended that Sony release the film for free online and ask viewers to donate $5 to Ebola research. Dozens of irate Tinseltown stars joined the fray, accusing the studio of bowing to the mysterious hackers. Meanwhile, three class action lawsuits have now been filed against Sony by employees after their personal information was compromised. Once the hackers attackers threatened an act of terrorism in U.S. theaters, the White House and lawmakers joined in and fired potshots, revealing a cyberwar with a cascade of aftershocks, toxic fallout, financial damage, alarmed officials - with not a bomb dropped or a bullet fired.

The press became mesmerized. Close to 10,000 news accounts appeared within 24 hours, according to a Google count. “Sony’s apocalypse is now” proclaimed New York Magazine. “This is cyberwar, not tabloid fodder,” chided Commentary, with leaked information treated like a “juicy showbiz gossip scandal.” “US weighs proportional response,” cautioned Bloomberg News while The Associated Press issued a meaty analysis of North Korea’s 3,000-member “cyberarmy,” and incidents of suspected “cyberassault” by North Korea dating back to five years.

“Experts believe that for impoverished North Korea, expanding its warfare into cyberspace is an attractive choice because it is cheaper and faster to develop malicious computer codes than to build nuclear bombs or other weapons of mass destruction. Online attacks can be performed anonymously, another upside for the infiltrators,” wrote an insightful Youkyung Lee, an AP technology writer based in Seoul. “It is also a battle in which North Korea has little to lose. Unlike South Korea where commerce and many aspects of daily life are dependent on the Internet, only a fraction of North Koreans can go online. In South Korea, a crippled website or a disruption of online banking poses great inconvenience.”

HERE COMES THE CYBER ‘ARMS RACE’


SEE ALSO: Newt Gingrich calls North Korea’s Sony hack ‘an act of war’


Now there’s a good word to bandy about this weekend — the knowledge economy, driven by data at lightening speed, and often personal data at that. But it’s complicated. Even the United Nations is laboring on a resolution to put before the General Assembly that calls upon nations to “respect and protect a global right to privacy.” Yes, well. Is it possible?

A Pew Research Internet Project survey of tech and Internet experts released Thursday reveals an glum outlook, now that we’re in a cyberwar. The researchers posed this complicated question: “Will policy makers and technology innovators create a secure, popularly accepted, and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025 that allows for business innovation and monetization while also offering individuals choices for protecting their personal information?” And the very simple answer: 55 percent said no.

“We can be sure that privacy technology, like encryption, will continue to improve in ease and power — but so will privacy-penetrating technology. It is an arms race today, and I do not see that changing anytime soon,” respondent Peter Suber, an academe and “open-access” aficionado, told the researchers.

THE INDUSTRY’S COCKTAILS OF CHOICE

What do the spirits industry folk prefer at their holiday parties? Indeed, the Distilled Spirits Council staged a recent soiree at a swank watering hole in the nation’s capital for all those not privy to any upcoming “Bourbon Summit” at the White House — an ancient midterm election idea likely long forgotten by President Obama and the Republican lawmakers in question. Attendees were treated to an official “High-End Tasting Bar” where superpremium American whiskeys, scotches, cognacs and tequilas were there for the asking, along with signature cocktails.

And here is what they served: Roca Patron Margarita — containing tequila by that name, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice; the Sidecar (cognac, orange liqueur, fresh lime juice); the John Harding (bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth, apricot liqueur) and the Cranberry Collins (gin, cranberry and rosemary syrup, fresh lemon and soda water. Those seeking a high-end Shirley Temple had to special order.

NEW YORK VERSUS PROTESTERS

Protests continue in major population centers like Washington and New York City, where lying on the asphalt on major thoroughfares during rush hour has become a preferred method of disruption. The public, however, is tiring of this. Yes, a poll has emerged.

“In the Eric Garner case, New Yorkers agree with the protesters, but they don’t agree with their tactics,” says Maurice Carroll, lead analyst for a Quinnipiac University poll which recently asked 1,374 New York City voters their opinion on such things.

Sixty seven percent overall said there was “no excuse” for the death of Garner, while an equal number disapproved of the jury decision not to prosecute a police officer. But about those protests: 73 percent approve of the way New York police have handled the events so far. And if the protesters block the streets, 37 percent give the all systems go sign to police to clear the roadway — “even if that means arresting protesters.”

A MANHATTAN MOMENT

The end-of-year lists continues. The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals has named New York Mayor Bill de Blasio their “2014 Person of the Year.” He joins the likes of former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey in the ranks of those esteemed by the animal rights group — which lauded the mayor for proposing a ban on horse drawn carriages in his city. “When the mayor of New York City talks, the world pays attention, and Mayor de Blasio’s kindness to animals and determination to protect them speak volumes,” declares Ingrid Newkirk, president of the group.

“Has PETA forgotten that Mayor de Blasio literally killed a groundhog as part of an anti-science stunt last Groundhog Day?” countered the vigilant monitors at Twitchy.com, citing an unfortunate incident in which the little critter was fatally injured after jumping from the arms of the mayor during a local celebration. Twitchy deems the whole affair “hypocrisy.”

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For sale: Nelson Rockefeller’s “St. Croix Dome,” built by the former New York governor in Christiansted, Virgin Islands in 1964 from a single, seamless dome of steel-reinforced concrete with turquoise-painted surface. Glass walls, five bedrooms, four baths with 24-foot oculus-style central skylight — “highly energy efficient, disaster resistant”; 4,500 square feet with 180 degree view of the Caribbean. Interior waterfall, limestone tile, natural stone, West Indian mahogany woodwork throughout; open kitchen with high-end appliances, circular bar, swimming pool. Priced at $1.5 million through ArchitectureForSale.com (under featured listings).

POLL DU JOUR

80 percent of Americans rate nurses as having “very high or high” honesty and ethical standards.

65 percent say the same about pharmacists and medical doctors; 48 percent say that about police officers.

46 percent cite clergy, 23 percent cite bankers and 21 percent lawyers.

17 percent cite business executives, 10 percent advertising practitioners and 8 percent used car sales people.

7 percent cite the U.S. Congress for high or very high honesty and ethical standards.

Source: A Gallup poll of 805 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 8-11 and released Thursday.

Cranky ultimatums and breezy asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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