The Interview looks like a ridiculous movie but is at the heart of teaching us signifiant mobile security lessons. It’s a vulgar comedy about killing Kim Jong-Un starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, with their general mash-up of obnoxiousness and endearment. It’s supposedly extremely violent, terribly crude, and maybe funny – commercials looked not-too-good, but they rarely do for comedy, because they can’t show the best parts. It does have the incredibly funny and always wonderful Lizzy Caplan, but besides that, it looks hit-or-miss.
Of course, we won’t know now. Despite yesterday being a day of history-making news, maybe the most talked-about story is that Sony has cancelled the release of The Interview. This is following a massive email breach and terrorist threats against any theater that shows the film on its Christmas Day release. This involves a lot of angles – the relationship between criminal states and cyberterrorism, the importance of free speech in the face of threats (especially non-credible threats like these), and, most importantly for this article, the idea of mobile security and mobile etiquette. A hack can take down a studio’s winter hopes. As our lives become more mobile and connected, we have to reflect on what that means for our own lives.
Private lives aren’t as private
I’m a big fan of mobile technology and the information age. I think its enormous benefits far outweigh the risks, and that techno-dystopians tend to only see one side of the equation. That said, they serve a purpose. It’s good to think about threats in advance, to prepare for the worst- not to withstand it, but to avoid it. We have to think about what can go wrong. It’s basic human nature.
That’s one of the reasons why, with shock and schadenfreude, we read the leaked Sony emails. We read huge millionaire producers, who run billion-dollar businesses, gossiping and spreading petty vitriol about some of the biggest names in show-business, and even worse material. It was actually wildly addictive.
It was also criminal and showed the reach of cyberthreats against nearly anyone. Here’s the thing though- Sony made it incredibly easy to hack into their system. They weren’t thwarted by masterminds; they made themselves vulnerable. They are still the victims in all this, of a weird and paranoid and violent regime with access to the right tools in a confusing and inchoate world, but they still should have been more protected.
Mobile security for uncertain times
Chances are, North Korea isn’t going to hack into your mobile, unless Seth Rogen is reading this, in which case, big fan. I thought Funny People was really underrated. Even if you aren’t Seth Rogen, you are still vulnerable, and it’s because of how we live our lives.
Communicating for the record used to be really hard. You had to find paper, and ink, and then store it in such a way that time wouldn’t ravage your parchment and make mockery of your words’ assumed permanence. Now you just have to type whatever comes into your head. That’s amazing, and liberating, but also frightening. Because just as North Korea probably isn’t going to hack you, it doesn’t require state-sponsored cyberterrorists to break into your system.
So when on your mobile device, be it a smartphone, or a tablet, or anything else, be aware that the information you are sending into the world can potentially be read by other people. That one day, it might be broadcast all over the world. Use two-step verification on all your devices. Choose smart and safe passwords for all your accounts.
But most of all, and this may just be the season talking, be smart and be kind. You know how in movies one character is talking garbage about someone else, say, a large, oafish type named Sluggo, and then it gets quiet, and he says, “Sluggo is right behind me, right?” Well, pretend that Sluggo is always behind you. Don’t be afraid to say things, but don’t say things you’d feel bad about in other situations. Use the idea of mobile freedom to create a better kind of etiquette.
Admittedly, these are broad lessons from a bland topic, but we live in a weird world. An international incident showing the dramatic reach of cybercrime and the power of transnational threats to trample over artistic expression was born from the guys who were also in Pineapple Express. The lesson is that in a connected world, everything can have far-reaching consequences. Stay plugged in for what that means for you.