US blames North Korea for Sony hack

U.S. officials have concluded that a massive hack targeting Sony Pictures was done by hackers working for North Korea, multiple news outlets reported on Wednesday.

Officials are reportedly preparing a formal announcement on Thursday, but news about the source of the hack came almost immediately after Sony announced it was canceling the release of “The Interview," a comedy depicting an assasination of North Korea's leader.

The New York Times quoted unnamed senior administration officials who said that the Obama administration is still weighing how to respond to the incident.

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The attack appears to be in retribution for the film’s plot, which depicts TV executives’ attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The isolated East Asian nation had previously called the film an “act of war” and has publicly cheered on the cyberattackers, though it has denied that it was directly involved.

NBC reported that one government source claimed to have “found linkage” between the hack — which has spilled secretive business deals and personal information about Sony employees — and the North Korean government.

According to the Times, the attacks were routed through global networks including a Singapore convention center and a Thai university. One server — a computer in Bolivia — had been used before in some cyberattacks on South Korea, pointing to the North Korean role in the Sony hack.

The attacks had largely been aimed solely at Sony officials, though hackers’ threats of violence against theaters showing the movie caused many cinemas to change course and inspired Sony to pull the plug on the film, originally scheduled for release on Christmas Day. 

North Korea’s possible involvement in such a major cyberattack has surprised some, but security experts explained that the country has been ramping up its cyber capabilities for a few years.

“They’re organized, they’re smart, they produce pretty good code,” said Stuart McClure, CEO of security firm Cylance.

Through heavy investments in computer science education, the country is quickly gaining on cyber powers like Russia, China and Iran.  

“They used to be just about ... kindergarten things,” McClure said. “Now they’re starting to get a lot better. They’ve got a lot of bodies looking at it so they’ll get better quick.”

How Pyongyang deploys those skills next is anybody’s guess.