nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

Last year was utter rubbish. Thanks for being part of it!

A great time for natty cyberpunk Kim Jong Un, though

By Alistair Dabbs, 10 Jan 2015

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I’m glad 2014 is over. It was rubbish. However, given the circumstances, can we have it back please? This year is worse.

Not only was last year crap for many, Facebook’s algorithm oompaloopas made sure they rubbed it in by showing us graphically how crap it was via its now-notorious Year in Review fail.

To be fair, all it did was pick at random one of the photos we uploaded over the previous 12 months and plonk it in the middle of an ugly digital greeting card so cheap and amateurish that it made Moonpig’s product line look like the catalogue of the Hermitage Museum at St Petersburg.

Is it Facebook’s fault that you spent the year uploading pictures of demised pets, crematorium jars, and cheating boyfriends? Is it up to Facebook to decide that you didn’t want to be reminded of all those workplace selfies you posted of you urinating in the boss’s waste bin shortly before being sacked, or that you were accidentally tagged in 200 images of revenge porn?

By contrast, my mates looked as if they had a whale of a time, what with children’s birthday parties, family weddings, and glorious holidays in the sun:

OMG, I thought, my friends are so lively, so successful, so middle aged and so fucking middle class I could just burst with pride. When I saw what Facebook had put together for them, I couldn’t wait to see what the Zuckerloompas had in store for me.

This is what I got...

Mmmmm, that's quite literally, a pile of rubbish. I’m not complaining, mind. As a summary of my year, it was pretty damn accurate.

One of the rare light-hearted moments to raise the spirits towards the end of 2014, however, was the Sony hack. Or to be precise, the latest Sony hack. Or to be even more accurate, while at the same time being less precise, one of the latest Sony hacks.

I particularly enjoyed trying to empathise with the toe-curling embarrassment of those who participated in the email exchanges regarding the walking, talking (but not, apparently, acting) freak show that is Angelina Jolie.

When movie producer Scott Rudin turned down the suggestion of meeting with Jolie in person by typing “Nooooooo noooooo noooooo”, it made me wonder if he’d once been a sub editor at The Register.

Not so much fun, one supposes in the aftermath of Sony hack season, was the inability of lots of juvenile recipients of PlayStation 4s at Christmas to get their consoles working before the decorations came down. It couldn’t have been all bad, though. Less active console time means fewer piss-filled plastic bottles lined up along the bedroom wall and seeping into the carpet. Look on the bright side, eh?

Sony’s official response was to direct everyone’s attention to a shit comedy film that would have been buried without trace under any other circumstance. The claim was that North Korea had been responsible for the hack whose main purpose was to mess up its opening week.

Now, you can accuse North Korea of being responsible for a lot of nasty things. I don’t know for certain what those things are but I am reliably informed that when a shrivelled North Korean man in military uniform and a hat that’s way too big for his little prune head invites you to see some puppies, the implication is much worse than you can imagine - especially if you happen to be one of the supreme leader’s less favourite uncles.

However, the North Korea Sony hack claim triggered all the bullshit meters I had installed over the summer. I just can’t see the might of North Korea’s world-renowned IT heavyweights doing any damage to any computer anywhere, except by accident. My suspicions were confirmed when the FBI fingered the rogue state as the culprit. This alone pretty much guarantees that they had no involvement in it whatsoever.

The argument goes that evil dictators get riled by films that poke fun at them and will try to do anything to discredit them or prevent them from being shown. Of course, they could avoid ridicule more readily by not having comedy bogbrush moustaches or not doing Billy Bunter impersonations, but there you go.

Surely Kim Jong Un is not the type of psychopath to take such a slur lying down - at least not without four people helping him up again.

He is North Korea’s main man, its numero uno, figuratively (and quite literally) the big cheese. He can fly a plane, he can stand in the middle of a field looking through binoculars, he can watch tanks driving by for hours on end and he can point at things dismissively without knowing what they are. Surely such an extraordinary multi-skilled man can command his tech minions to hack into Sony Pictures on a whim?

Youtube Video

Well, perhaps not. Kim Jong Un is not all-powerful, after all. Even he knows that there are things that he can’t do, such put a man on Mars, invent a flying car, order a haircut or see his own feet, but he takes it all in his waddle.

Stay Puft Kim, Stay Puft

It's more likely the Norks had help from friends in China, as the Chinese know a thing or two about computers, having build all of them for the rest of the world

Also, even though a six-year-old armed with a pocket calculator could probably hack into Sony judging from its security failures over the years, it’s doubtful that North Korea could do it. Indeed, would they even want to?

It is inconceivable that any self-respecting North Korean cyberwarrior would regard the great leader with anything but embarrassment. It is a well-known universal fact that everyone around the world wishes their leaders looked and acted like Harrison Ford in Air Force One, so it must be especially galling to have one that looks and acts like Stay Puft The Marshmallow Man.

Much more likely is that they had help from friends in China. The Chinese know a thing or two about computers, and so they bloody well should since they build all of them for the rest of the world.

But social media aside, do the Chinese authorities have any interest in upsetting the western interwebs over a mere movie? China has its own successful, world-class film industry that does jolly well abroad, so the last thing it would want to do is piss off Hollywood just to keep Stay Puft happy.

“Stop it!” yells the great leader. “Stop The Interview!”

“No problem,” replies the Head of the North Korean Democratic Committee for Computer Hacking, Cyber Interference and Women’s Netball. “Just walk out like Barry Gibb did on Clive Anderson", (although possibly without the "tosser" valedictory flourish).

“No, I mean the film,” cries Kim Jong Un as he pulls a lever on his desk, plunging the Committee Head backwards into a pool of sharks and cursing that they only have harmless LEDs on their heads because he sent the Head of Lasers to the "dog house" last week. “You are all useless. I will phone our cousins.”

Half an hour later, a crack team of computer scientists in Beijing have been briefed: hack into Sony Pictures, do some harmless mischief, then scarper. In the meantime, North Korea will do what it does best: talk utter bollocks about ‘retribution’ and ‘consequences’.

“Our retribution will be devastating!” announces the great leader to the world media. “There will be dire consequences for the west!” he adds, in the full knowledge that the only significant economic weapon at his disposal would be to cancel next month’s Emmental order.

He furrows his brow. A group of military men with hats that are too big quake in their boots and try not to attract attention. A dog barks. An LED blinks on a shark’s head.

“Great, we’re in,” observes one of the Chinese hackers. “Now what?” The crack team discusses whether to leave naughty on-screen messages on Sony websites, launch a DDOS attack, or do something else equally futile. A suggestion to delete all copies of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is rejected on the basis that their remit is to cause mischief to Sony, not to do western cinema goers a favour.

“Nah, just put Exodus on torrent, download cheats for Destiny and forward some emails to Defamer. It’s like WikiLeaks here. Awesome. Go on, use those messages about Angelina Jolie, she’s well mental.”

Job done, they dive out of the system, passing on the way a six-year-old brandishing a pocket calculator. Now the real damage begins... ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He is still planning to publish a collection of his Weekend columns just as soon as he can get his head round VATMOSS, the EU’s most effective tool to date for driving small digital businesses out of business altogether. If this means anything to you, sign the petition.

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing