WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Hollywood is on high alert as the Sony cyberattack by North Korea continues to reverberate worldwide.
The Obama administration blamed the North Korean regime to be behind the cyberattack that forced Sony to cancel the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy “The Interview” and also released embarrassing emails of several Sony executives.
Public relations specialist Ross Johnson, founder of Johnson Public Relations, says that this attack is a threat to all of Hollywood.
“Absolutely. One thing that you see is when you attack a target, you see how much publicity you get when you go after an entertainment giant,” Johnson told CBSDC. “This is the mother of all hacks because it specifically involves Hollywood and celebrities.”
During his end-of-the-year press conference on Friday, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. will respond “proportionately” to the cyberattack.
“We will respond proportionately and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose,” Obama said.
The president also called it a mistake for Sony to pull “The Interview” from theaters ahead of the Christmas release date.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship right in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like,” Obama said. “Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibility needs to be offended. That’s not who we are, that’s not what America’s about.”
North Korea has denied hacking the studio, and on Saturday proposed a joint investigation with the U.S., warning of “serious” consequences if Washington said no. The White House sidestepped the idea, said it was confident that North Korea was responsible and urged North Korean government officials to “admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused.”
At the same time, the U.S. was reaching out to China, North Korea’s key ally, to ask for its cooperation as the U.S. weighs its response, said a senior Obama administration official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity. Although China holds considerable leverage over the North and its technological infrastructure, involving Beijing could pose complications because Obama has pointedly accused China of engaging in its own acts of cybertheft.
Mike Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, told “CBS This Morning” on Monday that the U.S. needs to strike back financially against North Korea.
“The one that has the most punch are these financial sanctions that we put on them in 2008 — telling some foreign banks that you can’t deal with us if you deal with North Korea,” Morell said. “That hurt them then, that can hurt them now.”
The CBS News senior security contributor added that the Obama administration will have to convince China that the U.S. is not the biggest threat to the stability of the Korean peninsula.
“I don’t hold out a lot of hope for that unless we can convince the Chinese of something. The thing that the Chinese are most concerned about is instability on the peninsula. They don’t want instability in North Korea, that leads to a lot of North Koreans flowing into china,” Morell explained. “They now believe we are the biggest threat to stability on the peninsula, when in reality North Korea is. So if we can convince the Chinese of that, we might get some action from them.”
The cyberattack has left a black eye on Sony – especially the leaking of executives’ emails – where they take shots at Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio and even Obama. Despite the crippling network attack, Johnson believes that Sony can recover from this.
“Sony has done a pretty good job of saying we’re a victim here, too,” Johnson told CBSDC. “Number one tenant of crisis communication: identifying itself as a victim.”
Johnson added that this crisis will test Chris Dodd, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut and the current CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.
“I think there will be a serious challenge for Chris Dodd to get out in front of this. He has to be very, very strong on this. It’s a real test for Chris Dodd,” Johnson stated.
For his part, Dodd called the cyberattack a “despicable, criminal act.”
“This is about the fact that criminals were able to hack in and steal what has now been identified as many times the volume of all of the printed material in the Library of Congress and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who work in the film and television industry, as well as the millions who simply choose to go to the movies,” Dodd said in a statement. “The Internet is a powerful force for good and it is deplorable that it is being used as a weapon not just by common criminals, but also, sophisticated cyber terrorists. We cannot allow that front to be opened again on American corporations or the American people.”
Sony revealed over the weekend that “The Interview” will eventually be released.
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