United States intelligence officials are saying that the North Korean government was "centrally involved" in the hacking of Sony Pictures' computers. The White House is still deciding whether or not to accuse the country publicly of a cyber-terrorism, according to The New York Times. The discovery coincides with Sony's decision to cancel the December 25th theatrical release of The Interview – a movie that depicts an assassination plot on North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un – following terrorist threats.
The Times reports that the hacking, which led to the leaks of upcoming films and the contents of executives' e-mail accounts, was state sponsored. It was also the most destructive attack ever seen on U.S. soil. Forensics investigators at Sony are investigating whether or not the attackers had inside help. "It's clear that they already had access to Sony's network before the attack," Jaime Blasco, a security researcher at AlienVault, told the paper.
The American officials have yet to reveal how they concluded the source of the attack. But the hackers reportedly left several forensic marks. They used commercially available programs to take data off Sony's network and used techniques that resembles those of previous attacks on Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
A source identified as an intelligence official told the Times, "This was of a sophistication that a year ago we would have said was beyond the North's capabilities."
Earlier in December, North Korea denied involvement in the hack. "We do not know where in America the Sony Pictures is situated and for what wrongdoings it became the target of the attack nor we feel the need to know about it," a spokesperson for the country's government said in the statement. "The hacking into the Sony Pictures might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with [North Korea] in response to its appeal." (The government had previously threatened The Interview's co-director and star, Seth Rogen, with "stern punishment" over the plot.)
Following terrorist threats asking people to "remember the 11th of September 2001," Sony decided to cancel the New York premiere of The Interview. It also allowed theaters to back out of screening the movie, which was set to premiere on December 25th, and five major chains, including AMC, Regal and Cinemark, took the company up on the offer. Ultimately, the company decided to cancel the Christmas theatrical release altogether.
In Rolling Stone's current cover story, Rogen recalled Sony's North American CEO requesting a meeting with him after North Korea launched test missiles shortly after criticizing the film. "Any time a movie causes a country to threaten nuclear retaliation, the higher-ups wanna get in a room with you," the actor said.