[BIG QUESTION] Who Is Really Behind The Great Sony Hack Attack?
Could it have been an inside job?
Despite Terrorist Threats, Sony Goes Ahead With Debut Of 'The Interview' On Christmas Day
Sony’s first backtrack came Tuesday, when small theaters across the country said they would go ahead with plans to screen The Interview on its planned Christmas Day release date. The studio later officially announced it would allow a limited release of the controversial film starting Christmas Day. Only a few hundred theaters are offering the film, as opposed to the thousands that were originally planning to show it.time.com
Lee Peterson, manager of Cinema Village in New York, told Reuters news agency it was a matter of principle to show the film. "Obviously we would like to make money from the movie, as we would with any movie, but it's important to take a stand about freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to see movies." The film is also being offered through a dedicated website and via Google services YouTube and Play, and Microsoft's Xbox Video platform, but only in the US.bbc.com
Starting at 10 a.m. PST, the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco will be available to rent in HD on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and a dedicated website at a price of $5.99. The film can also be bought in HD for $14.99, the statement said.npr.org
18 Dec: Sony Cancels Release Of 'The Interview' Following Terrorist Threat Made On US Cinemas
Sony Pictures will not release 'The Interview' on Christmas Day, and the studio has "no further release plans" for the film, this according to a studio spokesperson. It had been speculated that Sony would consider releasing the film either via on-demand services or in theaters at a later date.huffingtonpost.com
American officials have concluded that North Korea ordered the attacks on Sony Pictures’s computers, a determination reached as the studio decided Wednesday to cancel the release of a movie comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un and that is believed to have led to the hacking.nytimes.com
U.S. investigators say an announcement pinning the blame on hackers working for the Pyongyang regime could come as soon as Thursday. Because of the North Korean regime's tight control of the Internet in the reclusive country, U.S. officials believe the hack was ordered directly by the country's leadership.cnn.com
17 Dec: Sony Hackers Threaten Terrorist Attack On US Cinemas That Intend To Screen 'The Interview'
A threatening message from the Guardians of Peace, the group responsible for hacking into and releasing more than a terabyte of Sony’s internal data so far, is alleging an attack on movie theaters that plan to screen Seth Rogen and James Franco’s movie 'The Interview.'techcrunch.com
According to Kevin Roose at Fusion, who has been leading much of the reporting on this story, a message posted by someone purporting to be the hackers, known as Guardians of Peace, today on the file sharing site Pastebin reads as follows:qz.com
North Korea has denied involvement in the attack, but has described it as a "righteous deed" that may have been carried out by its "supporters and sympathisers".bbc.com
4 Dec: While the hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment is revealing far more personal information than it was previously believed, the question about who is really behind the attack still looms large
So far, there are three prime suspects in the Sony hacking
A group called Guardians of Peace, or GOP, claimed responsibility via a Reddit post, but there’s little information available about who they are or what their motivations were.
The tech website Re/Code reported on Wednesday that two sources within Sony told them the company was about to announce its belief that the North Korean government is behind the breach, but instead a Sony Pictures Entertainment spokeswoman told the AFP that “the investigation continues into this very sophisticated cyberattack.”
And the third suspect is a disgruntled—and technologically talented—former employee.
So what's Sony doing about it?
Sony is working with cybersecurity company Mandiant and the FBI to control the damage and investigate the hack. Mandiant is the same cyber forensics firm that determined that the Chinese government was behind a crippling 2013 hack of The New York Times, as per a Bloomberg Politics report.
Why is North Korea a suspect in the Sony hack?
After learning of the company’s plans to release a James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy about a plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un, North Korea declared war in June. At the time, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said all North Koreans were determined “to mercilessly destroy anyone who dares hurt or attack the supreme leadership of the country, even a bit.”
Thanks to threats like that, North Korea is a prime suspect in the hacking attack that crippled Sony Pictures last week.
While North Korea is weird and vindictive, as Slate's staff writer Lily Hay Newman notes, experts have clearly doubts
In a blog post on North Korea Tech titled “Did North Korea Hack Sony? Probably Not,” Martyn Williams outlines his reasons for being skeptical of the theory. He explains that though North Korea is thought to have instigated various cyber-attacks on South Korea—including one major hack that took out broadcast TV and ATM networks for a while in 2013—the country is usually covert about what it’s doing.
In this case the hackers made demands, identified themselves as #GOP, and took over Twitter accounts to criticize Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton. North Korea has never done things like that before. Williams also points out that the country has also never publicly attacked an institution it was mad at even though, “many organizations have angered it in the past.”
Meanwhile, denying North Korea's involvement in the hack, an anonymous North Korean diplomat in New York told the Voice of America broadcast network that the accusation was "another fabrication targeting the country"
The New York-based diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Voice of America broadcast network on Wednesday that linking North Korea to the hacking of Sony Pictures' computers was "another fabrication targeting the country.
"My country publicly declared that it would follow international norms banning hacking and piracy," the diplomat said.
Lucas Zaichkowsky, a security expert at Resolution1, told CBC News, “State-sponsored attackers don’t create cool names for themselves like Guardians of Peace and promote their activity to the public.”slate.com
Tommy Stiansen, the chief techonology officer for cyber investigation firm Norse, told Bloomberg Politics that he is going to Sony and the FBI with IP address evidence that the attack could have come from a former Sony employee in Japan who was fired
“The only reason people are talking about North Korea is that North Korea spoke out against Sony,” Stiansen said.
“But North Korea is better than that. They wouldn’t steal all the other movies and not grab ‘The Interview.’"
"I am convinced that this is an inside job. The group, Guardians of Peace, nobody has never heard of them. I cannot find a drop of information on them. I would say if we can’t find anything on them, they don’t exist and they’re certainly not tied to any particular government.”
Joe Kiniry, a principal at the cybersecurity firm Galois and a key investigator for several European governments on cybercrime, also said he puts “little to no credence to the North Korea idea. It would be very, very surprising if it wasn’t an insider attack. To have that much data leak out through your network and not notice it would mean Sony’s security team is just incompetent. I would highly suspect that it was someone on the inside, someone like a Snowden, filling up a USB disk and walking out with out with it.”bloomberg.com
And what is known about the Guardians of Peace?
Most journalists have been communicating with the GOP through a series of emails with a hacker identifying themselves as "lena." Vox sister site The Verge was the first to report communications with lena, saying that she claims the hackers want only "equality."
"Sony doesn't lock their doors, physically, so we worked with other staff with similar interests to get in," lena told The Verge. "Im sorry I can't say more, safety for our team is important [sic]."
Still, a U.S. national security source said that in spite of doubts and the country's own denial, North Korea is still one of a few suspects U.S. law enforcement is investigating related to the hack
Right now it seems that no one knows for sure what happened. Jaime Blasco, director of AlienVault Labs, told Mashable, “This kind of data can be easily manipulated. ... I wouldn’t bet on anything at this point," he added, while noting that perhaps Sony has seen other malware samples or other data and intelligence that could prove the origin of the attack.mashable.com