NEW YORK (The Deal) -- The baffling, prolonged cyber-breach at Sony (SNE) highlights the frailty of corporate networks, if a string of high-profile attacks against Home Depot (HD) , Neiman Marcus, Target (TGT) , Bank of America (BAC) and others had not already made the vulnerability clear.
The Sony hack breaks the mold of some of the recent cases, in which cybercriminals looted troves of customer information and in some cases credit card details.
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The breach kept Sony staffers from using computers for days and coincided with the pirated release of Sony's World War II feature "Fury" and forthcoming films such as a remake of "Annie." Confirmation that the hack is payback by North Korea for the Seth Rogan-James Franco flick lampooning Kim Jong Un would underscore the role that governments have increasingly played in online break ins.
A young Matthew Broderick in "War Games" is not quite the archetype.
"In the old days it was kind of like this social misfit hacker stereotype who was largely self-taught. A computer geek," said Norwest Venture Partners managing partner Matt Howard, who was the first general manager of security at Cisco Systems (CSC) . "Now it has become extremely professionalized."
Nation states and criminal groups have recruited sophisticated computer scientists. The goal is not to infect a legion of computers worldwide with a signature worm, but to target a select organization, inhabit its systems and collect sensitive data for political or financial ends.