The cyberattack on Sony was a windfall for the gossip rags and the pop-culture obsessed: The revealed name-calling (and worse) among the rich, famous, and powerful embarrassed many, as what was presumed to be private communications became public.
Yet take away the intrigue of the episode and it's actually a serious event that should give all of us pause: Just how seriously are you taking cybersecurity? The emails and personal communications of normal folks like you and me are of little interest to the media, but there are plenty of internet thieves interested in gaining access to our financial information and even our identities (which remains a growing crime problem).
Part of the Sony scandal has been revelations of the company's efforts to thwart cybercrime, including intellectual property theft and the illegal downloading of movies and television shows. One doesn't have to agree with every tactic or agenda item to recognize that this is a vitally important issue for the company. Indeed it would be surprising—even negligent—if the entertainment industry wasn't focused on how to curb behaviors that drain billions from their businesses.
Needless to say, the internet and all the innovations that have come from it have enriched our lives in countless ways. But that doesn't mean that it also doesn't create real dangers for individuals and our economy.
In fact, the costs of cybercrime are huge: The estimated cost of intellectual property theft from U.S. companies is at least $250 billion annually, which is a bigger hit that the federal corporate income tax. Individuals should explore more ways to protect themselves and their children from financial theft and other online abuses. And, as a nation, we need to invest more attention in finding ways to protect our interests, from guarding our national security information to protecting our intellectual property whether it's drug patents, creative entertainment, or communications technologies.
The director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, called cybercrime "the greatest transfer of wealth in history." That's no joke, rather it should be a call to action.