Security Community Debates Source of Sony Pictures Hack
Following the U.S. statement that North Korea is behind the attack on Sony Pictures, a number of analyses suggest other possible—and more likely—explanations.Ten days after the U.S. government concluded that North Korea was behind the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, the image of events that led to the theft of tens of terabytes of data has become more blurry. On Monday, security firm Norse Corp. briefed the Federal Bureau of Investigation on its evidence that an insider, not North Korean agents, caused the massive data leak and handed over access credentials and other data to independent outside hackers. The company cited its analysis of the malware and command-and-control infrastructure as well as logs from underground forums and Internet chat channels and concluded that one or more disgruntled employees worked with at least two other attackers to steal the data and attempt to blackmail the company. "We see lots of data that supports that hypothesis," Kurt R. Stammberger, senior vice president at Norse, told eWEEK. "We don't see data points anywhere that say this attack was supported by, initiated by or masterminded by the government of North Korea." Norse is the latest company to come out with alternate theories of who may have hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment and the reasons behind the attack. On Dec. 19, the FBI and President Obama both said that the U.S. government believed that North Korea conducted or sponsored the attack. Yet the scant evidence the FBI shared has not satisfied security experts.
The following week, a number of media outlets, such as Wired, questioned the conclusion. In addition, security intelligence firm Taia Global, used linguistic analysis on the English language messages sent to Sony by the attackers to conclude that the attackers were most likely Russian. "Our preliminary results show that Sony's attackers were most likely Russian, possibly but not likely Korean and definitely not Mandarin Chinese or German," the company stated in a blog post.