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article imageOp-Ed: Why North Korea may not be behind Sony hacking

By Ken Hanly     Dec 20, 2014 in Internet
Washington - When I first heard about the hack attack on Sony, I thought that North Korean officials were incensed that a movie would poke fun at the Great Dear Leader and even have a plot that involved his assassination.
North Korea constantly seeks attention as is evident in the often grossly inflated rhetoric that promises horrendous consequences if others do not do as the regime wishes. At times it does take action but in many cases very little action accompanies the rhetorical outbursts. The Kim dynasty has been elevated beyond a cult of personality to the leader becoming almost a god-like figure. The regime's view of legitimacy seems less related to Marxist ideology than the ancient doctrine of the divine right of kings. To criticize the leader is a form of sacrilege and a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the leader.
In a number of countries such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia criticizing the leader can result in charges. The situation is even more risky should a movie criticize a religious leader such as Mohammed. Imagine a comedy movie that poked fun at Mohammed with a plot that involved his assassination. The reaction could make the Sony hacking seem benign. Consider the reaction to the film Innocence of Muslims. Some comedies of this genre do survive such as Monty Python's "The Life of Brian" but even it caused considerable controversy and was banned in Ireland and Norway.
Given this background, it should not be surprising if the regime would try to show that Hollywood cannot just poke fun at Kim Jong-Un and get away with it. The hacking of Sony achieved this. It resulted in theatres being unwilling to show the film after threats that theater-goers could be in danger if they went to see the film.
The mainstream press also seemed to go along with the view that North Korea was the culprit in the hacking. The New York TImes often a mouthpiece for the Obama administration reports: American officials have concluded that North Korea was “centrally involved” in the hacking of Sony Pictures computers, even as the studio canceled the release of a far-fetched comedy about the assassination of the North’s leader that is believed to have led to the cyberattack. This report was followed not long ago by the FBI claiming they had sufficient evidence to hold North Korea responsible to the attack Recent news reports, including coverage I listened to on the CBC have now accepted the narrative that North Korea did the dirty deed. There appears to be not the least critical coverage of this dominant narrative. Elementary facts that count against the narrative are ignored.
From the very first a number of experts have questioned the role of North Korea in the hacking and have suggested other players such as a disgruntled Sony employee. There are some crucial basic facts in the case that appear to be forgotten or ignored.
The following email was sent to five top executives of Sony Pictures including the CEO Michael Lynton on Nov. 21. The email was sent from a Gmail address belonging to Frank Davis: Subject: Notice to Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
Message body:
We’ve got great damage by Sony Pictures.
The compensation for it, monetary compensation we want.
Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole.
You know us very well. We never wait long.
You’d better behave wisely.
From God’sApstls
It is not clear what relation if any God'sApstls have to Guardians of Peace (GOP) who claim responsibility for the attack. There is no mention of the film the Interview specifically. The message is obviously seeking payment in exchange for not activating some sort of damage to Sony through release of hacked material no doubt. While this could simply be one of many crank threats received by Sony, it surely deserves a bit of attention since the Guardians of Peace(GOP) had taken control of Sony computers by the following Monday and displayed the message and threat shown here..
Sean Sullivan, of the Finnish security firm F-Secure said: "There's no direct, hard evidence that implicates North Korea. There is evidence of extortion (the Nov. 21 email [to Sony executives which demanded money]) and the hackers only mentioned [the movie] The Interview after it was brought up in the press, which they then used to their advantage."
Not only could the hackers use the movie link to their advantage, they could use it to shift investigation to North Korea rather than them. If it were the hackers that sent the memo, then it is clear that they could care less about any critique of the Great and Beloved Leader of North Korea. They simply wanted cash in return for not releasing material damaging to Sony.
The FBI may very well have evidence that computers in North Korea were involved but the evidence may have been deliberately planted by hackers to lead investigators astray. Graham Cluley, a security analyst, explains the difficulty of pinning the blame on a foreign country: Attributing internet attacks to a particular country is extremely difficult, as it’s so easy for hackers to cover their tracks or point investigators in the wrong direction. It’s not uncommon at all for attackers to use compromised computers in other countries as part of their attack to throw investigators off the scent, and allegations of where hackers might be based is often founded on the flimsiest of “evidence”.
Obviously, the hackers could point to North Korea's involvement by using North Korean computers that were compromised in their attack. Threats involving The Interview offer a marvelous opportunity to point to North Korea protecting their dear leader. Obama has swallowed the dominant narrative hook line and sinker and promises a response in proportion to the damage caused by the hacking. North Korea has come out and claimed it is not responsible for the hacking. Of course they would do this even if they did the hacking. However, North Korea also offered a joint investigation into the hacking. North Korea also threatened "serious consequences" if Obama retaliates against it. The North claims a joint investigation would prove its innocence. I predict that there will be no joint investigation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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