The FBI has concluded that the crippling computer hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment and subsequent leaking of embarrassing emails and proprietary information—which lead to The Interview being shelved—was ordered by the North Korean government.
NBC Nightly News posted excerpts of the FBI’s update on the investigation, which concludes that “technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in the attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed.”
According to the FBI, the Sony cyberattack also resembled a similar criminal hack of South Korean banks and media outlets that was committed by North Korea in March. In addition, the Guardians of Peace hackers that claimed credit for the attack used several Internet protocol addresses that are known to be associated with North Korean actors.
“The FBI’s announcement that North Korea is responsible for the attack on Sony Pictures is confirmation of what we suspected to be the case: that cyber terrorists, bent on wreaking havoc, have violated a major company to steal personal information, company secrets and threaten the American public,” said Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the MPAA, in a statement. “It is a despicable, criminal act.
“Disappointingly, that fact has been lost in a lot of the media coverage of this over the past few weeks. This situation is larger than a movie’s release or the contents of someone’s private emails. This is about the fact that criminals were able to hack in and steal what has now been identified as many times the volume of all of the printed material in the Library of Congress and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who work in the film and television industry, as well as the millions who simply choose to go to the movies. The Internet is a powerful force for good and it is deplorable that it is being used as a weapon not just by common criminals, but also, sophisticated cyber terrorists. We cannot allow that front to be opened again on American corporations or the American people.”
North Korea had expressed outrage in June that Sony intended to release The Interview, a comedy that stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as a TV host and producer who are recruited by the U.S. government to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, during an interview. The North Korean state-run media called the provocative film “an act of war,” and promised “merciless” retaliation if it ever opened.
In November, the group called the Guardians of Peace hacked into Sony’s computers, stole huge amounts of data that they then leaked to the media, and evoked 9/11 while threatening to attack movie theaters who screened the film when it opened on Dec. 25. Subsequently, several movie theater chains announced they would not play the film, and Sony announced on Thursday that it had cancelled its plans to release the film.
CNN also reported that Sony received another message from the Guardians of Peace on Thursday night that commended the studio for its decision to withdraw The Interview from release but threatened further damage if the film were to become available in other viewing formats. “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy,” the email reportedly read. “And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”
Sony did not immediately respond to EW‘s request for comment on the latest revelations.