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Rewriting the Sony cyberattack script

A poster for the movie "The Interview" is carried away by a worker after being pulled from a display case at a Carmike Cinemas movie theater in Atlanta. Suspicions that North Korea was behind a destructive hacking attack against Sony pictures and a threat against movie theaters will intensify calls for a tougher US Steps to cuts its access to hard currency and declare it once more as a state sponsor of terrorism. | David Goldman / AP

In America, the script isn’t supposed to work like this: Threats are made against a perfectly legal movie, and the studio — instead of making one of those defiant stands we’ve seen so often in the last reel — simply pulls the film.

Which actor in this sorry episode could possibly be played by John Wayne?

EDITORIAL

We appreciate the worries Sony Pictures and theater chains had about releasing “The Interview” on Dec. 25. No one wants to share in the responsibility for any violence committed against moviegoers, as hackers into Sony’s computers had promised.

But we can’t as a nation simply shrug our shoulders about the sophisticated cyberattack on Sony — maker of the film — and threats against theaters that had planned to show it. A U.S. official has said the attacks have been traced to North Korea, whose leadership was angered by the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy, which portrays an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

One sensible suggestion is for Sony — which says it now has no plans for the movie — to make it available free on the Internet. That would keep the cybercriminals from feeling they triumphed and gained power over us. It also would be a win for free expression.

The United States also should find a way to respond strongly. Otherwise, as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said, we will have a “troubling precedent that will only empower and embolden bad actors to use cyber as an offensive weapon even more aggressively in the future.”

Meanwhile, a lesson for both business and government is to work harder to protect online information. Social Security numbers and medical data for current and former Sony workers and other sensitive information was stolen, partly because Sony — a technology company — didn’t employ adequate safeguards. Computer industry insiders say such laxity is all too common in corporate America.

Let’s hope this script finishes with a better ending than the one we are seeing now.

Sun-Times Editorial Board