Cyber attacks & coercion in the digital era. : A qualitative case analysis of the North Korean cyber attack on Sony Pictures.

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: The 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment is an example of a disruptive event where a nation state utilized cyber tools in order to coerce a target into changing their course of action. Cyber attacks, something that might be perceived as a looming futuristic threat, became reality for Sony and its employees under the course of a few months in late 2014. The coercer’s attempt to change the behavior of the company eventually failed and North Korea who was attributed as coercer was imposed with new sanctions. This paper takes on the task of evaluating the Sony case against both the traditional theory of coercion and specific factors of cyber coercion in order to determine how the failure can be explained. The findings implicate that the failure can be explained by the traditional theory but needs to be complemented with the specifics of cyber coercion due to the difficulties in assessing the credibility of cyber attacks. Further studies are advised in the area of cyber coercion and a comparative approach would do particularly well in assessing causal explanations in a more comprehensive way.

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