Barack Obama promised on Friday 19 December, a “proportionate” response “in due place and time,” the hacking of Sony Pictures attributed to North Korea while calling it “mistake” the decision of the studio American cinema to cancel the release of the film The Interview in theaters. A comedy in which Seth Rogen and James Franco actors play journalists recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“I wish they talked to me first,” regretted the US President during his press conference at year-end, explaining, “We cannot have a society in which dictators may impose censorship.” Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Pictures, defended himself on CNN ensuring not having capitulated but he said the cinema owners had come to see him one after the other to indicate that they will not be planning the film. “The president, the press and the public are wrong about what happened, said Mr Lynton. We do not own our own cinemas. We cannot decide whether or not to launch the projection of a film in a theater.”
Destructive and coercive
The US has explicitly accused on Friday North Korea of being behind the cyber-attack launched against Sony Pictures. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said it had “sufficient evidence to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions.”
The film studio, the US subsidiary of the Japanese group Sony, fell victim of a cyber-attack on November 24 claimed by a group of hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace. Many confidential data and emails leaders had been stolen, before some of them were disclosed. But the crisis has taken a new turn when the company started to receive threats alluding to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Under pressure, Sony has decided this week to cancel the release of his film in the United States, scheduled for December 25.
Kerry called on US allies, including Japan and South Korea, for solidarity in the fight against the intimidation of a State and to “fight against cybercrime.”
The FBI claims to have found “similarities” between the attack against Sony and previous hacks carried out by North Korea. Computer code lines, encryption algorithms and methods for deleting data used would bear the signature of the dictatorship, according to the federal Bureau. This was based on an earlier attack in March 2013 against banks and South Korean media.
The survey also reveals that more IP addresses associated with the North Korean infrastructure had contacted those that have been identified as responsible for piracy. However, the authorities did not wish to give details to avoid revealing the technology that the FBI, too, has to trace the origin of the attack.
“The destructive nature of the attack, combined with its coercive nature, is a class in a class,” said the FBI. The actions of North Korea were intended to inflict significant damage to an American company and suppress the right of expression of American citizens. Such intimidation is beyond the limits of acceptable behavior of a state. “The Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said for his part that the attack was beyond the company and its employees, but also targeted their “lifestyle “.
Wave of indignation
On Friday morning, hackers had praised Sony for taking “a very wise decision,” according to CNN information. “We will ensure the security of your data unless you cause new problems,” is the new chant of the hackers, threatening reprisals if the studio were to start broadcasting the film in any form whatsoever. The fact that Sony is giving in to the intimidation of pirates caused a wave of indignation in Hollywood and around the country. On Friday night, the group said in a statement that they currently “seek alternative routes to broadcast the film on different platforms.”
Reacting to US accusations, Kim Sung, North Korean diplomat at the UN, saw an “insult to [their] sovereignty.” Kim also reiterated the position of his country, which has always denied involvement in the attack. Pyongyang nevertheless welcomed a “fair act of a group of supporters and sympathizers.” The Interview sparked several angry demonstrations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In June, it had called an “act of war” and vowed “strong and merciless” retaliation.
The question is what kind of retaliation on the United States they are ready to exercise. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to urge him to re-enroll North Korea on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It had been withdrawn in 2008 by the administration of President George W. Bush, following progress on its nuclear issue.
Meanwhile, Kerry called on US allies, including Japan and South Korea, for solidarity in the fight against the intimidation of a State and to “fight against cybercrime.” Japan appears to retaliate on the Sony case since it is engaged in dialogue with North Korea to try to get back in the Japanese Archipelago annexed in the years 1970-1980.
Military solution is unlikely
According to South Korea, the North Korean organization of cyberwar would also be strategically important for the leader Kim Jong-un as nuclear development and missiles. Seo Sang-ki, chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence Committee, stressed the strong presence in China of North Korean agents who take advantage of better infrastructure of the Internet and certain protection. Seo alluded to some 1,700 pirates, supported by 4,500 officers who make money by developing software and conducting economic piracy operations.
Even though the US Senator John McCain, who will head as of January the Armed Services Committee, used the term “act of war” to describe computer hacking, a military solution seems out of question. Additional economic sanctions are also unlikely in view of the already high level of those currently in force. However, in the opinion of experts, it is likely that actions to weaken or dismantle North Korean computer systems are considered, as well as increased military support for South Korea.