US investigators link North Korea to Sony hack - officials
American officials investigating the source of the recent Sony hack have determined that North Korea is “centrally involved” in the cyber attack against the studio, the New York Times reported.
The news comes in the wake of Sony's decision to cancel the release of its film "The Interview," which involves a fictional, CIA-sanctioned plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The hackers had previously threatened a violent response if the movie was released -- recalling the September 11 attacks -- and the country's largest theater chains decided to drop the film from their venues.
According to CNN, American officials will detail their findings on Thursday.
Meanwhile, other unnamed officials told NBC News that the source of the cyber attack did not come directly from within North Korea. Instead, investigators believe the individuals responsible were taking orders from North Korea.
"We have found linkage to the North Korean government," said a US government source.
Despite the discovery of such a link, unnamed officials told the New York Times that the White House is still mulling over what type of response to make in public.Some in the Obama administration believe the US should respond forcefully and confront Kim, while others are wary of escalating the situation.
Speaking to ABC, President Barack Obama said threats by hackers shouldn't keep Americans from watching movies or going out the rest of the month.
"Well, the cyberattack is very serious,” Obama said. “We're investigating it. We're taking it seriously. You know, we'll be vigilant. If we see something that we think is serious and credible, then we'll alert the public. But for now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies."
Additionally, some officials do not want to divulge too many details regarding their investigation, since North Korea's computer networks are extremely difficult to breach and they don't want to inadvertently reveal their methods.
In a separate report by ABC News, US officials said the government believes that "Bureau 121," a highly capable North Korean cyber unit, could be behind the attacks. They also said there is evidence indicating the hack was "routed through a number of infected computers in various locations overseas, including computers in Singapore, Thailand, Italy, Bolivia, Poland and Cyprus."
Suspicion of North Korea's involvement comes just a couple of days after the FBI said, “There is no attribution to North Korea at this point.”
Although there have been numerous embarrassing revelations about Sony's Hollywood business in the days following the hack, the situation took a dramatic turn on Tuesday when the hackers threatened violence if "The Interview" was released.
Should the movie come out as scheduled on Christmas Day, "the world will be full of fear," the hackers wrote on Tuesday.
"Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time," they said. "Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment."
While the Department of Homeland Security continues to say there is "no specific, credible threat information" regarding an attack, the US' largest theater chains decided to pull the movie.
On Wednesday, Sony officially canceled its December 25th release.
“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business," the company said in a statement. "Those who attacked us stole ourintellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like."
"We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”