What began as a bizarre story involving the fragile and eccentric sensitivities of the recalcitrant leader of the world’s most reclusive Stalinist state is fast evolving into a major international incident.
On Friday, officials with the FBI revealed that they will formally cite North Korea as the party responsible for the hacking of Sony Studios emails in response to the production of the comedy film The Interview. The fallout from that incident and subsequent terroristic threats against theaters which planned to show the film prompted Sony to cancel its Christmas Day release.
The sophistication of this cyber-attack led some observers to believe that it was impossible for North Korea alone to have carried it out. That speculation now seems accurate. According to an American official who spoke with Reuters reporters on the condition of anonymity, Pyongyang ally China was also involved in that attack.
A U.S. investigation into the hack of Sony’s computer system has determined that North Korea was behind the operation with a possible Chinese link, a U.S. official said on Friday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the conclusion was to be announced later by federal authorities.
The probe into the hack found North Korea was behind it and that there may be a Chinese link either through collaboration with Chinese actors or by using Chinese servers to mask the origination of the hack, the official said.
Apparently, the hackers behind the original attack are taking a victory lap of sorts. CNN’s Brian Stelter reported on Friday that Sony executives received a new communication on Thursday night congratulating them on their decision not to release The Interview.
Calling the move “very wise,” the unidentified hackers claimed that further attacks on Sony would end “unless you make additional trouble.”
The hacker message is effectively a victory lap, telling the studio, “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”
The message also says, “And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”
It warns the studio executives that “we still have your private and sensitive data” and claims that they will “ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”
The email was titled “Message from GOP.” The anonymous hackers have called themselves “Guardians of Peace.”
The message further advises against the release of all digital, DVD, or pirated copies of the film. The hackers further demand that even the film’s trailers, which remain live online, be permanently deleted from the internet.
If history has taught us anything, it is that appeasing dictatorial governments by giving in to their threats usually makes them back down. Moreover, Americans have a rich history of reacting calmly and rationally to ultimatums made against private citizens by foreign communist governments.
In another era, America regarded the use of communist satellite states to threaten American interests and citizens as acts of war. Sadly, “We shall regard any future release of private data or further attacks on the interests of American citizens as an attack by the People’s Republic of China upon the United States,” are words you are never going to hear uttered by President Barack Obama.
This is now becoming a significant international fracas with potential national security implications. And all over a Seth Rogen comedy. You could not write a more absurd plot if you were… well, Seth Rogen.