There are many lessons to be learned about the recent hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment – particularly how to establish a corporate mindset that anticipates that you may be next. Regardless of Sony’s shortcomings, their experience has a lot to offer other big companies as well as their own in the future. The following are just three lessons to factor in 2015.
Bolster Your Cyber Defenses
Since the Christmas shopping season of 2013 when Target Corporation was hacked affecting 40 million customers, every major company has been on notice that they could be next. While hackers will constantly apply new techniques of breaking through firewalls and sophisticated cyber defenses, all major corporations must assume the worst, review all of their sensitive data for vulnerabilities, and war game possible scenarios and responses. Cyber hacking is like ensuring that your physical facilities have proper security protection through the night, and in fact is a far greater threat. Major companies have to start investing far greater resources in cyber security. The nation on the whole must address this more firmly, as it appears that our elected representatives in congress and the White House have been asleep at the server for far too long (see: Sony hack could be game changer). Evidently, our spies have been tracking the same North Korean hackers for years (see: U.S. Spies Say They Tracked ‘Sony Hackers’ For Years), and yet have taken no action against them until three days ago (see: Obama OKs New North Korea Sanctions Over 'Destructive' Cyber Attack).
Have a Complete Plan When you Change Course in the Crisis
On December 17, 2014, Sony CEO Michael Lynton announced plans to scrap the release of “The Interview,” the movie at the center of the hacking scandal that was scheduled for release on Christmas Day. A mere week later on December 23, Lynton did an about-face and announced plans to release the picture through independent theaters and through on-demand streaming online. While one can sympathize with Sony for the predicament they were in, after all the major movie theater chains would not show the film in their theaters out of concern for reported threats of terror attacks at theaters showing the film, this was a major crisis management calamity. Observers including the President of the United States criticized Sony for failing to defend free speech in America. The real mistake that Sony made though was not having a plan in place for the limited release of “The Interview” on December 17 when they announced their plan to scrap its release altogether. They would have been far better off delaying their announcement for several more days, building suspense along the way, until the plan that they ultimately announced on December 23 was in place. Basic crisis communications planning would have predicted the outcry against Sony for scrapping the release of the film without a back-up plan. This major company looked too reactive in the process and needed to slow the process down in order to regain command of events as they were unfolding.
Only Real Professionals Should be Executives
If you read some of the e-mails from Sony Co-Chairman Amy Pascal, you can’t help but stand in awe of how unprofessional and sophomoric her internal communications are. She bashed all sorts of Hollywood powerhouses including Angelina Jolie, and shared racist comments about President Obama. Is everyone in Hollywood this arrogant and self-righteous? Any fool these days knows that you should never write anything that you would not want to see on the front page of the Washington Post. Yet Pascal runs one of the biggest movie studios in the world. Major companies should be very careful to ensure the most basic of standards from the executives and staff, even with simple internal communications shared in e-mail.