A nameless British commander at D-Day is supposed to have said that winning battles is about having a plan B and remembering to use it first and so it proved for Sony in the midst of the most spectacular corporate hack in US cyber-history.
According to US reports, after taking the hair-raising decision to completely shut down the firm’s internal network and email system to contain the unfolding attack on 24 November, executives were forced back to basics using a box full of old BlackBerrys from the basement that someone forgot to throw away.
BlackBerry has jumped on this with aplomb and who can blame them. Written off by shallow scribes, it was the half-forgotten BlackBerry that trumped its rivals to keep Sony’s communications working with its independent system of servers and encrypted communications. That’s not to say other technologies couldn’t have done some of the job but the BlackBerry remains an off-the-peg system that integrates the device, the client and the server pretty seamlessly for email at least.
It is because the same Sony executives used to use BlackBerrys not long ago that it was able to step into the breach. The status of BackBerrys in Sony is not clear but the fact that the firm was rescued by something seen only hours before as completely obsolete does raise interesting questions about the fashions of enterprise security.
The implication is that Sony had no plan B for this kind of shutdown or, more accurately, did have one but didn’t see it as a plan B until it found itself under real attack. That's called 'seat of the pants' in British parlance.
They won’t be making that mistake again and the anecdote underlines the importance of the principle for every enterprise. If on that exceptional occasion the plug is pulled, how does the organisation function, starting with its most senior board members?
It just so happens that the BlackBerry turned out to be a pretty competent back-up for this eventuality - it's a sign that the firm's business model is not perhaps as out of date as some believed. It's also a reminder to check the basement.