The Sony Hack: What Scholars Can Learn From It

Connectivity has been touted as an absolute good. All your data should be available on all your devices, everywhere. However, some serious counter-examples have become clear. Perhaps the one that is the clearest to understand is the hack on Sony Entertainment’s internal network. As we now know, on November 24, 2014, employees at Sony turned their computers on only to be greeted by a spooky image of a skeleton with a message speaking of a hack. Apparently, hackers had not only stolen a stupid amount of data (some speak of 100 terabytes), they had also taken the opportunity to wipe all data from any computer they could get their hands on.

A virus does not discriminate. If it is programmed to delete data, it will delete data, whatever it may be. Besides Sony’s operations coming to a grinding halt, imagine all the personal files having been lost of each individual employee. In a nutshell, what the hack at Sony shows, is that you yourself may not be a specific target for hackers, but you may become collateral damage. Ask yourself the question: which of your devices (computers, phones, tablets, etc.) are (sometimes) connected to the network of your employer (i.e., university)? I think it speaks for itself that this is a risk. Of course, a risk you ought to be willing to take, but a risk you should prepare yourself for. (By backing up your data!).

Other ways in which you may fall victim without being a specific person of interest have also surfaced. This journalist had his entire digital life destroyed, his computer digitally torched, by hackers, and apparently it was done without any specific reason other than that they could. More interesting, the way the hackers went about it was not through sophisticated technology and brute-force hacking, but through social engineering. The chances of this type of disaster happening should be minimized with an intelligent password strategy (i.e. NOT your firstname-lastname, NOR all passwords the same for all accounts).

You might just also fall victim to what is been dubbed ransom ware. This is malicious software that somehow finds it way to your computer. It locks your computer shut and all it gives is information how to pay and perhaps if you do pay you may possibly get access to your files again. Become aware of how scams and phishing emails look like and do not just open or download anything.

The most important thing to remember -which is why I write it in bold- is that you should store offline duplicates of your most valuable files related to your writings and research. Your digital library, and its structured arrangement in folders, is too valuable to lose. 

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