Skip to main content

[Updated] FBI confirms North Korea hacked Sony pictures, Obama pledges response

tech companies encryption letter obama sony hack
Update 12/19/2014 2:55pm Pacific: Sony Entertainment’s CEO, Michael Lynton, responded to President Obama in an interview with CNN, saying “The president, the press, and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened.” He clarified that Sony did not willingly cancel the movie, but was forced to after all major theater chains in North America pulled out of the release. Lynton said Sony is considering a release through on-demand services, but so far no partner is willing to show the film. 

Update 12/19/2014 11:17am Pacific: In a press conference President Obama took a question asking if he thought Sony did the right thing by pulling The Interview. He responded “I am sympathetic to the concerns they faced. Having said that, yes, I think they made a mistake.” He went on to say that the United States can’t tolerate a situation where “publishers start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.” 

Related Videos

The President also said further action will be taken by the government. “[They] caused a lot of damage, and we will respond. We will respond proportionally, in a time and manner we choose.” He did not clarify what the response might be. Further, he said there’s currently no reason to believe North Korea acted in conjunction with any other country or organization. 

A new statement posted on the FBI’s official website makes it clear: North Korea is the party responsible for the attack on Sony Pictures. This is the first announcement from a U.S. intelligence or law enforcement agency made on the record, and it all but confirms that widespread speculation about the nation’s culpability was correct.

The FBI has been working with Sony since the first few hours of the attack in an attempt to minimize the damage and figure out who was responsible. In the weeks that have passed, several key pieces of evidence have been discovered which point the finger directly at North Korea.

Perhaps the most damning point is the use of techniques and malware that the FBI has linked to North Korea in the past. Software used for sophisticated attacks such as those deployed by The Guardians of Peace require custom solutions, and hacking organizations often re-deploy malware when possible rather than waste time re-writing it from scratch. Consider it a digital fingerprint.

A link has also formed between the infrastructure used for this attack and that used for past attacks on U.S. institutions by North Korea. I.P. addresses known to belong to the nation-states computers were connected to the Sony hack. The addresses were coded into the malware itself, presumably so it could communicate with its masters.

The statement goes on to say that “North Korea’s attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States.” It goes on to re-affirm the FBI’s commitment to supporting any company that finds itself victim of a cyber attack, no matter the source.

Everyone already suspected the country’s involvement, so the FBI’s words are no surprise, but the fact that a U.S. government agency has pointed the finger is significant and suggests some form of diplomatic response may be in the works. President Obama is due to give an end-of-year press conference today, December 19th, before he leaves for his Christmas vacation. It would be an ideal time for the President to outline the government’s response if one is indeed intended.

Editors' Recommendations

LastPass reveals how it got hacked — and it’s not good news
A depiction of a hacker breaking into a system via the use of code.

Last year was a particularly bad one for password manager LastPass, as a series of hacking incidents revealed some serious weaknesses in its supposedly rock-solid security. Now, we know exactly how those attacks went down -- and the facts are pretty breathtaking.

It all began in August 2022, when LastPass revealed that a threat actor had stolen the app’s source code. In a second, subsequent attack, the hacker combined this data with information found in a separate data breach, then exploited a weakness in a remote-access app used by LastPass employees. That allowed them to install a keylogger onto the computer of a senior engineer at the company.

Read more
A beginner’s guide to Tor: How to navigate the underground internet
A person using a laptop at a desk.

While the internet has dramatically expanded the ability to share knowledge, it has also made issues of privacy more complicated. Many people are justifiably worried about their personal information being stolen or viewed, including bank records, credit card info, and browser or login history.

If you're looking for more privacy while browsing, Tor is a good way to do that, as it is software that allows users to browse the web anonymously. It should be noted that Tor can be used to access illegal content on the dark web, and Digital Trends does not condone or encourage this behavior.
Why does Tor exist?
In this climate of data gathering and privacy concerns, the Tor browser has become the subject of discussion and notoriety. Like many underground phenomena on the internet, it is poorly understood and shrouded in the sort of technological mysticism that people often ascribe to things like hacking or Bitcoin.

Read more
How to run a free background check
A person's hands typing on a laptop placed on a black desk.

Whether it’s embarrassing Facebook photos or the complete criminal record of your sister’s new boyfriend, the internet is a treasure trove of background information. And while there are many fee-based services, it’s possible to learn quite a bit about someone from public records or through content found on online social networks.
While you could run a check on somebody else, perhaps you should scan your own background first. You’ll be able to check your credit report and insurance information for inaccuracies. You’ll also see what potential landlords, employers, or anyone else can find out about you if they decide to do a little detective work of their own.
Either way, here’s how to run a comprehensive background check without spending a dime.

Using search engines
The first place you should start is with a web search. Google can easily pull up a ton of information, assuming you know the person's name or any relevant information pertaining to him or her. The results can function as a starting point from which to branch out.

Read more