Confirming widespread speculation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday formally accused North Korea of the recent cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The FBI said it began an investigation shortly after the attack and has concluded that the North Korean government is responsible.
The conclusion was based in part on a technical analysis of data deletion malware used in the attack, which revealed links to other malware North Korean actors previously developed.
The FBI said it also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in the attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked to North Korea.
Additionally, the tools used in the attack on Sony allegedly have similarities to a cyber-attack North Korea carried out against South Korean banks and media outlets in March of last year.
The bureau expressed deep concern about the destructive nature of the attack on Sony, which the FBI said sets it apart from other cyber intrusions.
“North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves,” the FBI said. “Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.”
The bureau added, “The FBI takes seriously any attempt—whether through cyber-enabled means, threats of violence, or otherwise—to undermine the economic and social prosperity of our citizens.”
The announcement from the FBI came on the heels of news that Sony Pictures scrapped the release of “The Interview” amid threats from hackers.
The plot of the film, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, revolves around a fictional assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Sony had previously been prepared to release the film even after the cyber-attack, which led to the release of embarrassing e-mails and personal data.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday the administration is currently weighing options for responding to the cyber-attack.
In a press briefing at the White House, Earnest warned against speculation and said members of the president’s national security team are considering a range of options.
Earnest said the team would be mindful of the need for a “proportional response” but also cautioned that “sophisticated actors” are often seeking to provoke a U.S. response that would be advantageous to them.
by RTT Staff Writer
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