In November 2014, the Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) got hacked into by the anonymous hackers. Despite the fact that a group of hackers, called the Guardians of Peace (GOP), claimed responsibility for the attack, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and some other forensic investigators attached it to the North Korean Government. Some sources argued that hacking was due to the information about a controversial movie that was to be released as this film, titled ‘The Interview’, displayed the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vulnerable for an assassination.
The hacking was first noted when employees of SPE could not log into their computers because of the malware. Whenever they tried to log in the computers, a neon red skeleton with the words “Hacked by GOP” appeared on the monitor. Moreover, the hackers blackmailed the company to meet their requirements so that they do not release confidential data from the company’s database (Pagliery, 2014). In the following weeks, the GOP allegedly posted a lot of leaks online from Sony Pictures. They used the Paste-Bin site, which is a notorious platform for the hackers, for this.
Furthermore, on the 1st of December, GOP started releasing the cache of the data they had stolen from Sony Pictures’ servers. The first bunch, published by these hackers, contained compressed files of up to 24.87 GB. The leaked data included more than 47,000 Social Security Numbers (SSN) out of which 15,232 were attached to some current and former workers of Sony Pictures (Pagliery, 2014). One of the compressed files exposed 402 SSNs, names, email addresses, and passwords of the firm’s employees. Some attachments also had contact phone numbers and executive salaries of the other Sony workers (Pagliery, 2014).
Another piece of known evidence about the SPE attack is what actually comprised the hacking. For example, it is clear that hackers used a deployment of destructive malware to hijack data from the company. The malware granted access to SPE systems and destroyed data on them (Peterson, 2014).
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However, the FBI had some reasons for attaching the North Korean Government to this cybercrime after their three-week investigations. For instance, an analysis of the malware, used by the hackers, showed the way it linked to the similar programs, developed in North Korea during the previous years. There were similarities in deletion methods, code lines, and encryption algorithms (Peterson, 2014). The FBI also noted that the infrastructure used in the SPE attack and the one used in previous cybercrimes, perpetrated by North Koreans had overlapped. For instance, IP addresses, linked to North Korean hackers, communicated with the ones, used in the malware, deployed during the SPE attacks. In addition, the FBI based their accusation on the fact that the software tools, used against SPE, resembled the ones, employed in hacking the South Korean banks by their northern neighbors (Pagliery, 2014).
Nevertheless, I agree with the opinion of some security professionals who argue that the FBI’s conclusion was hasty and may be incorrect. Firstly, a serious cybercrime like this should be investigated thoroughly for months, not just several weeks. Secondly, anyone can hire cyber criminals from any part of the world to attack Sony. Rival companies with unhealthy competition strategies and fired employees are all possible enemies. Apart from that, perpetrators might have just imitated tactics from the North Korean hackers.
In my opinion, the best investigative action that could have been taken after the revelation was an in-depth investigation of all the suspected parties. An analysis that runs for months will guarantee exposure of nearly all the avenues of capturing the perpetrators (Lee, 2015). It would also be prudent to jointly involve intelligence agencies and law enforcers in the investigative process. Joint operations between the two bodies would help bring to light every suspicious action and subject it to the hands of law.
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In conclusion, the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment alerted the world that cybercrime is still a primary security threat. The FBI reaction on the issue was instantly showing that it is keen on defense matters. However, there is a little need for a fast response as it does not handle every bit of the affair. On the contrary, detailed forensic investigations are necessary in order to make hackers pay for their deeds and avoid such cases in the future (Lee, 2015).