Towards the end of last year one of the biggest stories that made international headlines was the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack. The U.S. government was quick to point its finger towards North Korea for the cyberattack even though the supremely isolated country denied the allegation repeatedly. Many questioned just how the FBI had reached this conclusion, with some security experts saying that it may have been a total inside job, but a new report by The New York Times reveals that the NSA had its eye on North Korean hackers long before they struck the studio.
Citing documents leaked recently by Edward Snowden as well as former U.S. officials the report claims that the intelligence U.S. National Security Agency had gathered over four years ago was one of the main reasons why the country was so quick to blame North Korea. Under a program launched back in 2010 the NSA made use of malware to track hackers based in the DPRK.
The report quotes several U.S. officials who say that the attack against Sony began in September 2014 when the hackers got access to the studio’s network through spear phishing attacks. Basically they floated malware through email. This activity didn’t ring any alarm bells over at NSA since the hackers had stolen credentials of a Sony administrator. Before finally launching the attack in November the hackers spent nearly two months combing the system from the inside.
While the country’s swift decision to name North Korea drew criticism from some quarters the FBI Director James Comey followed up with a reiteration at a security conference a couple of weeks back detailing how the agency was able to figure out that North Korea was behind the hack.
It is also mentioned in the report that U.S. officials knew of mounting cyberattack threats from North Korea, particularly following an attack on banks in South Korea back in 2013, but they apparently didn’t bring up the subject with Sony Pictures during a meeting in June when the studio’s controversial movie The Interview was being verbally lambasted by North Korea.