UPDATE 7 (2014-12-20): The DPRK denies involvement and makes an offer:
DPRK Foreign Ministry Rejects U.S. Accusation against Pyongyang over Cyber Attack
Pyongyang, December 20 (KCNA) — A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK gave the following answer to a question put by KCNA Saturday as regards the U.S. accusation against the DPRK over a cyber attack on a movie company in the U.S.:
Obama, Kerry and other high-ranking authorities of the U.S. cried out for sort of counter-measure Friday, claiming that the results of the investigation into the cyber-attack on the Sony Pictures Entertainment proved that the DPRK was behind it.
They, without presenting any specific evidence, are asserting they can not open it to public as it is “sensitive information.”
Clear evidence is needed to charge a sovereign state with a crime.
Reference to the past cyber-attacks quite irrelevant with the DPRK and a string of presumptive assertions such as “similarity” and “repetition” can convince no one.
The U.S. act of daring charge the DPRK with a crime based on absurd “investigation results” reveals its inveterate bitterness toward the DPRK.
This is proven, as in the recent cyber-attack, by the recent urge made by a man called a “human rights special envoy” of the U.S. State Department to movie-makers that they should harass the north Korean government and keep alive scenes hurting the dignity of the its supreme leadership.
The U.S. ruling quarters are working hard to divert the criticism of its administration to the DPRK as the plan of putting on show the anti-DPRK film on Christmas Day canceled due to the controversial cyber-attack, causing an uproar in the U.S.
We will never pardon those undesirable elements keen on hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK. In case we retaliate against them, we will target with legitimacy those responsible for the anti-DPRK acts and their bases, not engaging in terrorist attack aimed at the innocent audience in cinemas.
The army of the DPRK has the will and ability to do so.
The U.S. State Secretary is going to justify the production of the movie hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of a sovereign state while trumpeting about the freedom of expression. He should know that there is punishment of libel in enforcement of international law.
We propose the U.S. side conducting a joint investigation into the case, given that Washington is slandering Pyongyang by spreading unfounded rumor.
We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture as what the CIA does.
The U.S. should bear in mind that it will face serious consequences in case it rejects our proposal for joint investigation and presses for what it called countermeasure while finding fault with the DPRK.
UPDATE 6 (2014-12-19): There is the official FBI press release on the matter.
UPDATE 5 (2014-12-19): The New York Times has published information from the FBI that implicates the DPRK in the Sony hack:
The F.B.I. on Friday said it had extensive evidence that the North Korean government organized the cyberattack that debilitated Sony Pictures computers, marking the first time the United States has explicitly accused the leaders of a foreign nation of hacking American targets.
The bureau said that there were significant “similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks” to previous attacks by the North Koreans. It also said that there were classified elements of the evidence against the North that it could not reveal.
“The F.B.I. also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyberactivity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea,” the bureau said. “For example, the F.B.I. discovered that several Internet protocol addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with I.P. addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.”
The F.B.I. said that some of the methods employed in the Sony attack were similar to ones that were used by the North Koreans against South Korean banks and news media outlets in 2013.
“We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there,” the F.B.I. said.
It added: “Though the F.B.I. has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyberintrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart. 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. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.”
North Korea has been under extraordinary economic sanctions for decades, and it has done nothing to curb either its nuclear program or these cyberattacks. A military response seems unlikely — the White House said on Thursday that it was examining options for a “proportional response,” and that would seem to rule out conventional military options.
Some of the evidence has been developed from “implants” that the National Security Agency has placed in networks around the world. But North Korea has proved to be a particularly hard target, because it has relatively low Internet connectivity to the rest of the world, and its best computer minds do not move out of the country often, where their machines and USB drives could be accessible targets.
“Suffice it to say,” one senior intelligence official said this week, “that we almost never name a suspect country. So when we do, it’s got to be based on something fairly strong.”
As the F.B.I. pointed out, the attacks at Sony share similarities with a similar series of destructive attacks last year on South Korean banks and broadcasters, and they used the same data-wiping tool that Iranian hackers used to destroy data on 30,000 computers at Saudi Aramco in 2012, according to forensics researchers.
In 2009, a similar campaign of coordinated cyberattacks over the Fourth of July holiday hit 27 American and South Korean websites, including those of South Korea’s presidential palace, called the Blue House, and its Defense Ministry, and sites belonging to the United States Treasury Department, the Secret Service and the Federal Trade Commission. North Korea was suspected, but a clear link was never established.
But those were all “distributed denial of service” attacks, in which attackers flood the sites with traffic until they fall offline. The Sony attack was far more sophisticated: It wiped data off Sony’s computer systems, rendering them inoperable.
“The cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment was not just an attack against a company and its employees,” Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement. “It was also an attack on our freedom of expression and way of life.”
Mr. Johnson said the attacks underscored the importance of taking measures “to rapidly detect cyberintrusions and promote resilience throughout all of our networks.”
“Every C.E.O. should take this opportunity to assess their company’s cybersecurity,” he added.
UPDATE 3 (2014-12-18): Christmas day screening of Team America at the Alamo Draft House is already sold out.
UPDATE 2 (2014-12-18): Maybe time for a Team America sequel?
UPDATE 1 (2014-12-18): Team America to the rescue! At least one American theatre will stick up for the first amendment. And let’s be honest, it is probably a much better movie.
Oh, and this.
Sony is dropping its planned Dec. 25 release of “‘The Interview,” the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The decision comes after some of the nation’s largest movie theater chains, including Regal, Cinemark, Carmike and Cineplex, said they were holding back or dropping “The Interview” from screens in the aftermath of a hack that has ballooned from embarrassing disclosures for Sony Pictures executives to involve threats against theaters screening the film.
“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business,” Sony said in a statement Wednesday, saying that it reached the decision after the top cinema chains pulled out.
“Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” the company said.
At the same time, another North Korea themed film was also put on hold.
This seemed like a massive over-reaction in my opinion until a few minutes later when this story was published by the New York Times:
American intelligence officials have concluded that the North Korean government was “centrally involved” in the recent attacks on Sony Pictures’s computers, a determination reached just as Sony on Wednesday canceled its release of the comedy, which is based on a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.
Senior administration officials, who would not speak on the record about the intelligence findings, said the White House was still debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism campaign. Sony’s decision to cancel release of “The Interview” amounted to a capitulation to the threats sent out by hackers this week that they would launch attacks, perhaps on theaters themselves, if the movie was released.