As Western Journalism reported 10 days ago, The FBI has officially named the North Korean government as the culprit behind the hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Even President Obama laid the blame for the massive cyber-security breach at the feet of Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian regime, a presidential move that led to North Korea’s pushing back hard against the accusation, escalating the war of words, as NBC News reported:
North Korea on Saturday accused the U.S. of shutting down internet service to the country in retaliation for its alleged hacking attack on Sony, and referred to President Barack Obama as “a monkey” in blaming him for the release of “The Interview.”
Now there’s a new development in the Sony saga that could support North Korea’s claim that it was not involved in the security breach or the posted threats related to the movie “The Interview.”
A number of news outlets, including politico.com, are reporting that web experts from a leading cyber intelligence company have presented an alternate theory of the attack to FBI agents investigating the Sony security breach.
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According to these experts, the Sony hack was likely an inside job:
FBI agents investigating the Sony Pictures hack were briefed Monday by a security firm that says its research points to laid-off Sony staff, not North Korea, as the perpetrator….
Researchers from the cyber intelligence company Norse have said their own investigation into the data on the Sony attack doesn’t point to North Korea at all and instead indicates some combination of a disgruntled employee and hackers for piracy groups is at fault.
As of now, though, the FBI is standing by its rather rapidly drawn conclusion that North Korea was behind the devastating attack that has been so costly for Sony and its management.
“The FBI has concluded the Government of North Korea is responsible for the theft and destruction of data on the network of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Attribution to North Korea is based on intelligence from the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community, DHS, foreign partners and the private sector,” a spokeswoman [for the FBI] said in a statement.
Officials for the security firm Norse say they have uncovered evidence on six individuals primarily involved in the attack, including an ex-employee of Sony with detailed insider knowledge of the company’s IT network:
…a former decade-long Sony veteran who “worked in a technical role” and was laid off in May.
Norse previously identified the ex-employee as “Lena,” and said she claimed to have connection to the “Guardians of Peace” hacker group that took credit for the attack against Sony, which has so far resulted in leaked employee information, executives’ emails, unreleased films and the limiting of “The Interview” theatrical release in response to a terrorist threat.
And as the story of the Sony Hack attack continues to develop like the plot of a spy movie, questions are now being asked as to why President Obama and the FBI would rush to the public with their conclusions about an ongoing investigation and unsolved multi-faceted mystery that intrigues numerous cyber detectives outside of government.
Security expert Bruce Schneier called the evidence “circumstantial at best” and considered a number of other possible explanations.
CloudFlare principal researcher and DefCon official Marc Rogers wrote that the FBI’s indicators seem to rely on malware that is widely available for purchase and IP addresses easily hijacked by any bad guy.
Errata Security’s Robert Graham also noted the hacker underground shares plenty of code, calling the FBI’s evidence “nonsense.”
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