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Experts Hope Sony Hack Could be Industry’s Wake-Up Call on Cybersecurity

The hacking attack at Sony Pictures Entertainment was top on the minds of many entertainment industry studio security and anti-piracy experts who gathered at the W Hollywood on Tuesday for the annual Content Protection Summit.

Some participants suggested that the unprecedented nature of the attack would be a wakeup call as to the importance of security in the creative community, issues surrounding piracy, or an Internet culture that still seems to foster the notion that content should be available for free.

“One of the things I have noticed this year, between gamer gate and Sony and a bunch of other things, is that people are starting to really understand the potential of this great technology to hurt people, and the need to have some of the other kind of freedom on the Internet, the freedom to be protected from bad actors in that sphere,” said John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX productions.

He was joined on a panel by moderator Ruth Vitale, executive director of CreativeFuture, and writer-producer Eli Attie.

During a Q&A at the panel, Bob Eicholz, senior VP of technology and content security at Technicolor, said that one problem he has had is that security personnel actually have drawn resistance from creative employees. For instance, some creatives question why they can’t access the Internet through their own workstations in a way that would allow a hacker to get through a firewall.

“A lot of what we have to do can be seen as limiting the creative process,” he said.

But the Sony incident, he said, has made people more aware of the threat to their work security.

“It is really unfortunate that it takes something of that size,” Vitale said. “Obviously, since this happened, you hear more people saying, ‘Oh my God.'”

The conference regularly draws a mix of security personnel and industry anti-piracy executives, with a pretty wonkish outline of the latest challenges facing content security. This year, however, it seemed all the more urgent.

Michael Rose, the CEO of Ease Entertainment Services, said that the Sony hacking “makes the timing of this conference all the more important.”

“The last two weeks have shown us we are dealing with a dramatically altered reality,” he said.

Shafeeq Banthanavasi, managing director of cybersecurity at PwC, presented some alarming statistics about the rise of hacking incidents at corporations across the globe. The company’s 17th annual survey, which was just released, found that there was a significant uptick of almost 50% in the total number of incidents, up from 42.8 million in 2013. Given the potential connection of the Sony hack to North Korea, PwC stats on so-called “nation-backed hackers” was of note, with the U.S. government having notified 3,000 companies last year of such attacks.

“Any 14-year-old geek out there can probably hack the majority of your infrastructure,” said Richard Atkinson, corporate director of global piracy conversion at Adobe. “But they don’t have the motive. When you put those two things together, that’s when you have a problem, as we saw in the Sony situation.”

A big problem in combating piracy is not just in protecting the security of content, but in awareness.

CreativeFuture is a coalition that is trying to elevate the importance of creative content, a long-term plan to perhaps help change a digital culture where piracy has been rampant. Their work also includes a curriculum for schools aimed at students, parents and teachers.

But Vitale says it also is getting more in the creative community involved to talk about the problem of piracy.

Landgraf said that piracy even threatens to diminish a period that has been called the golden age of television, as it becomes more difficult to finance premium content if so many are accessing it for free.

Landgraf said, “If the MPAA is the only spokesperson out there, then it sounds like it is an MPAA versus Google debate, right? I think the reason CreativeFuture exists is creative people have to stand up and they have to raise their hand in the protection of their own rights and they have to thank those who are trying to do it, and they have to say, ‘This is not cool.'”

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