The hacking of Sony Pictures has taken on a new dimension of late.
There are reasons to believe that the cyber-attack against the entertainment company sought the actual destruction of technology and data as opposed to the mere taking of information. There is also a mounting stack of evidence, which suggests that the totalitarian communist dictatorship of North Korea was involved in the launching of the attack.
Now when a foreign power sends out a missile, with the intended purpose of destroying property in the United States, and the power in question is successful in its nefarious activity, the occurrence is considered to be an act of war. So what if a digital weapon, specifically designed to destroy property located within the country, is launched by an adversary, with the opponent likewise attaining success? Is this not, in effect, the same thing, i.e., an act of war?
The use of computer code specifically designed to wreak havoc or demolish computer systems is referred to as destructive malware. The recent hack of Sony’s computer systems utilized a virus, which had the capability of wiping out data and rendering computer networks useless. The virus simultaneously allowed perpetrators to obtain unreleased movies, confidential salaries, social security numbers of employees, and other private information, much of which has been leaked to the Internet in the intervening days since the cyber-attack.
The Sony hack attack can be clearly distinguished from a typical technological assault that is reported in the news. Most hackers fall into one of three categories: 1) those who are attempting to obtain information to use in identity theft crimes (such as the stealing of credit card information); 2) those who focus on the theft of government secrets, or even more frequently, the theft of confidential information held by private sector entities (industrial espionage as an example); and 3) those who seek to bring awareness to a cause (those individuals or groups often referred to as “hacktivists”).
The Sony attack was malicious in nature and was seeking to harm the studio and destroy company property. After the perpetrators accessed the unreleased films and confidential information, they summarily obliterated all of the content of the company’s computers.
Evidence continues to mount that implicates the North Korean regime in the cyber-attack. International Internet security company Kaspersky Lab released a report, which noted the aspects of the hack that point North Korea’s direction.
Security experts found the following:
-The malware used in the attack employed the Korean language in its code;
-The destruction of Sony’s data was accomplished with the same technology that was used in a previous cyber-attack on South Korean banks and television stations, which has been confirmed to have been perpetrated by North Korea, according to the intelligence officials of South Korea;
-The images and words used in the message, which was left on the computer monitors, were in the same style as the messages that appeared on the computer monitors in the South Korean hack;
-In both the South Korean and Sony hacks, the malware was created two days prior to the occurrences of the attacks.
Additionally, Sony investigators have connected the attack on the company to a North Korean group known as DarkSeoul.
North Korea’s official statements about the Sony hack are revealing. While denying involvement in the attack, the North Korean government has indicated in an article by the state news agency that the act could be a “righteous deed” and that it was the work of “the supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK [an acronym for North Korea] in response to its appeal.”
The article blamed South Korea for “floating the false rumor that the North was involved in the hacking.” It also claimed that “there are a great number of supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK all over the world.”
According to the regime, the “Guardians of Peace,” a.k.a., #GOP, the group that took credit for the hack, is one of those many supporters of the repression of North Korea.
However, the communist nation has already established a motive for the attack by publicly threatening Sony over the release of “The Interview,” a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, which mocks North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. The Sony hack occurred a month prior to the scheduled release of the film.
The FBI is now looking into threatening emails that were sent to Sony employees. The emails are written in a sort of stilted English. One urges recipients to sign their names “to object the false of the company at the email address below if you don’t want to suffer damage.” The email then warns, “If you don’t, not only you but your family will be in danger.”
North Korea previously described the release of Sony’s “The Interview” as an “act of war.”
It now appears as though the regime itself may have employed such a rationale to justify the launch of its own digital act of war, an act intended to destroy property, seemingly done in retribution for the content of a Hollywood comedy.