The FBI has officially blamed North Korea for the Sony Pictures hack, the largest corporate hacking to take place on American soil.
"North Korea's actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves," the law enforcement agency said today in a statement. "Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable behavior."
The FBI also provided a few details that led them to the conclusion that the reclusive nation was behind the attacks. There were similarities in lines of code found in the malware of previous North Korean attacks and a "significant overlap" in the infrastructure used in this attack and in previous ones (i.e. they used the same servers). The Sony hackers also used a tool kit that was employed last March to attack multiple South Korean targets .
The FBI's statement confirms some of what had previously been reported, though the law enforcement agency made no mention of "Dark Seoul," the North Korean hacking group that has launched multiple attacks on South Korea in the last five years and whose tactics were also reportedly used in the Sony Pictures hack.
Not all security experts were convinced by the FBI's explanation. Famed hacker Kevin Mitnick described the FBI's announcement in a tweet, "Trust us, it was NK. But we are not going to share any details on the investigation," Mitnick said. "What bullshit. They need to be transparent on this one." Before the announcement on Wednesday, Wired's Kim Zetter, who wrote the book at the Stuxnet attack on Iran, penned an article titled, "The Evidence That North Korea Hacked Sony Is Flimsy." After the announcement, Zetter maintained her skepticism in a series of tweets.
The consequences of the Sony Pictures hack have been severe. Not only did it lead to the cancellation of the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy "The Interview," it exposed the personal information of thousands of Sony Pictures employees. "The Interview" is not the only film that's been censored as a result of the hack. Paramount Pictures cancelled screenings of "Team America: World Police," a 2004 comedy that pokes fun of Kim Jong Il, the deceased father of North Korea's current leader.
Chris Dodd, President of the Motion Picture Association of America, the trade group that represents the six largest studios, decried the hack as an attack on Americans and their livelihood.
"This situation is larger than a movie’s release or the contents of someone’s private emails," Dodd said in a statement. "This is about the fact that criminals were able to hack in and steal what has now been identified as many times the volume of all of the printed material in the Library of Congress and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who work in the film and television industry, as well as the millions who simply choose to go to the movies."
Sony Pictures may not have been prepared for a large scale hack. The company's information security team only had 11 employees. Security company McAfee claimed in a Bloomberg report that the malware used by the hackers would not have worked if Sony Pictures had been using its products.
For his part, President Barack Obama lamented Sony's decision to yank the movie. "I think it says something about North Korea that it would mount an all-out attack over a satirical film starring Seth Rogen," Obama told a pool of reporters during a press conference. "That gives you a sense of the regime we're talking about."
Obama also promised that the United States would respond, though he refused to provide any more details.
"We will respond, we will respond proportionally, and in a place and time that we choose." he siad. "It's not something that I will announce here today at this press conference."
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.