This essay by August Cole, Art of Future Warfare project director and Atlantic Council senior fellow, appears at media partner War On The Rocks’ Art of War channel.
As Twitter hashtags go, it is a well-crafted one. The tweet last week that went with it, “Sad day for creative expression,” was sent by none other than comedian Steve Carell, an actor whose effortless affability was snuffed out by news that his upcoming film “Pyongyang” was being shut down after Fox said it would not distribute the film. It was only the latest industry casualty of the massive cyber exploitation of Sony Pictures by hackers tied to North Korea.
“The Interview,” the film that appears to have triggered the operation, is in limbo after Sony scrubbed the movie’s December 25 release in response to the hackers’ threat of violence at any theaters that showed it. Sony is still working to release the movie, company lawyer and veteran troubleshooter David Boies told NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday. In a sign of the ongoing uncertainty, the New York Post on Sunday reported that Crackle, a free video website owned by Sony, might release the film while other outlets such as Mashable said that was not the case.
This hack, and America’s private and public sector response, show how the character of conflict is getting harder and harder to define as it changes faster than governments and the private sector can keep up with. The hack was not an act of war, but it was a preview of the low-intensity and non-kinetic conflicts to come.