Is This Cyberattack A Publicity Stunt By Sony Pictures?

Sony reacts to cyberattack

You may have heard of the guys who hacked Sony Pictures. So far they have leaked personal medical records of its employees, salary information for many of its executives, and the scripts of its upcoming movies.

Since those hackers have released some of the scripts, movie buffs may have felt grateful for an opportunity to read scripts before they get made into movies. But now those hackers gave movie buffs a reason to hate them.

In what seems to be the highest escalation of violence, hackers behind Sony leak have threatened a 9/11-like attack on movie theaters that screen “The Interview”.

The Interview is a movie in which the two main characters are “recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission”. The guy they would have to assassinate is no other that North Korea’s current dictator Kim Jong-un. Hence, the Internet was abuzz with speculation that North Korea is behind the cyberattack on Sony. But there are few facts to support it.

Here is one of the “so-called facts” that supports North Korean theory:

North Korea is reported to have a cadre of 6,000 or so hackers, over 1,000 of whom are reportedly very skilled.

This fact reported by Newsweek is not evidence per se, however. It is more of an assumption, just like the whole article where it has been reported.

Here is another one of Newsweek’s “so-called facts”:

North Korea may well have recruited Chinese or Russian or even Eastern European hackers to help them.

Newsweek’s assumptions hardly qualify for serious journalism. Or if they do, we may as well state that Sony Pictures’ cyberattack was caused by the angry ghost of Joseph Stalin. He specifically asked God to let him walk The Earth to see a lousy Hollywood picture. Then he recruited Russian spies and hackers to punish Sony. What for? Well, he supposedly identified too closely with North Korean dictator and felt sorry for himself. Hey, dictators also have feelings, and why can’t our theory be plausible? It’s just as bad as Newsweek’s, if you ask me.

Okay, I agree that Newsweek’s theory is a little better than ours. This is so because of the following 3 pieces of information:

1. In June, the North Korean state KCNA news agency said, “making and releasing a movie on a plot to hurt our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated.” North Korea has tried pressuring Sony Pictures, the White House and the United Nations to halt release of this film.

2. While the hackers provided open Internet access to five recent or about to be released Sony films, The Interview was not among them. North Korea has known about the movie for at least five months, giving it ample opportunity to plot and carry out a cyberattack.

3. Pyongyang has voiced strong support for the Sony hack, indicating that Guardians of Peace [hackers’ group] is likely a proxy group run by North Korea.

“The hacking into the SONY Pictures might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK in response to its appeal,” the Korean Central News Agency stated in a report. “What matters here is that the US set the DPRK as the target of the investigation, far from reflecting on its wrongdoings and being (ashamed) of being taken unawares.”

Newsweek’s theory has just as many holes as our theory about Stalin though. They state in their article that “the apparent ongoing disclosures of information would make it difficult for a current disgruntled employee to avoid discovery”. While this is so on the first glance, it is total BS when you think about it critically. How many disgruntled employees are there at such a huge corporation as Sony? One, two, or three? has put it best when it comes to North Korea’s involvement:

The focus on North Korea is weak and easily undercut by the facts. Nation-state attacks don’t usually announce themselves with a showy image of a blazing skeleton posted to infected machines or use a catchy nom-de-hack like Guardians of Peace to identify themselves.

Nation-state attackers also generally don’t chastise their victims for having poor security, as purported members of Guardians of Peace have done in media interviews.

Nor do such attacks result in posts of stolen data to Pastebin—the unofficial cloud repository of hackers everywhere—where sensitive company files purportedly belonging to Sony were leaked this week.

I choose to stick with our theory about Joseph Stalin. After all, it has a ghost in it, just like our story about the ghost of Steve Jobs visiting Obama. Talking about that story, why don’t you read it?

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