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US Still Convinced North Korea Attacked Sony

US Still Convinced North Korea Attacked Sony

by P. H. MadoreJanuary 28, 2015

While several security researchers have come out with evidence linking groups such as the Lizard Squad to the Sony Pictures attack last year, the government is sticking to its guns in its accusation that the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea is in fact directly responsible.

Also read: Zombie CISPA Follows Lizard Squad

NSA Hacked South Korea to Get to North Korea

hackedBeginning in 2010, the NSA became more interested in the burgeoning cyber infrastructure of the hermit kingdom, and systematically devoted resources to unraveling its security fabric via its single internet connection through China. With the help of digital espionage units in the employ of South Korea, they were able to find out an unprecedented amount about North Korea’s digital activities.

Documents obtained and released by whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that the NSA has occasionally used the exploits of allies in intelligence gathering, and in the case of North Korea, South Korean in-roads were utilized without the country’s knowledge or consent.

Beginning in September last year, the government alleges, members of the North Korean cyber-spy Bureau 121 penetrated Sony’s networks and acquired system administrator privileges so that they could browse the network at will. They were apparently very careful in their activities, but the malware used in the attack was reportedly amateurish in nature.

Why Didn’t the NSA Alert Sony, then?

The government’s revelation that they had this previously-unknown ability to monitor the activities of North Korea has many wondering why they couldn’t have alerted Sony to the attacks before they took place. The government says that they had no way to gauge the severity of the attack.

Further suspect is the fact that the government is refusing to release the evidence it supposedly has in regards to the attack, supposedly due to the highly classified nature of the tactics used. Technically speaking, South Korea could argue that the US in fact hacked them in order to hack the North, and might not agree with this practice for any reason. Releasing the evidence might only give such charges greater credibility.

Previously, FBI director James Comey simply said that other technical researchers “don’t have the facts that I have”. He pointed to a singular mistake in the activities of the hackers which revealed a North Korean IP address and similarities to other hacks conducted by the decidedly low-tech country.

The Interview is the Biggest Digital Release Ever

Meanwhile, the supposed impetus for the hack, The Interview, is on track to earn Sony a new accolade: biggest digital release ever. Since theaters decided not to run the movie for fear of terror attacks or bad press, Sony chose a different path, with Google and Apple lending a helping hand. The movie has now earned $40 million, which is the previous record for a digital release held by 2012’s Bridesmaids. The movie must make at least another $4 million in order to break even, the cost of its production having been $44 million. Certainly this is not a stellar performance in terms of revenue, but one should note that the alternative would have been no money at all if the Guardians of Peace had had their way.

Cyber espionage and international malicious hacking have increasingly become part of the national vernacular. They are an unfortunate part of a connected world. Many argue that these attacks have been used by the government to rush through new legislation which restricts digital privacy rights as well as regular civil liberties, with changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as a new CISPA variant being bandied about congress.

Images from Shutterstock.

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