FBI gives Sony hack theories audience but no credence

Chris Davies - Dec 30, 2014, 1:24 pm CDT
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FBI gives Sony hack theories audience but no credence

The FBI may be convinced that the Sony hack was the handiwork of North Korea, but not everyone is convinced, with private investigators briefing US security agencies on alternative explanations for the breach. Security firm Norse has joined a growing chorus of those who doubt the official account, describing the speedy assignment of blame on the secretive foreign state as a warning signal that a conclusion might have been rushed. While the FBI still insists Sony was the victim of a North Korea-led attack, it’s nonetheless been open to hearing other viewpoints, Norse says.

“When the FBI made the announcement so soon after the initial hack was unveiled, everyone in the intelligence community kind of raised their eyebrows at it,” Norse senior VP of market development Kurt Stammberger told Politico, “because it’s really hard to pin this on anyone within days of the attack.”

Norse had been running its own investigation into the breach – which saw details on Sony Pictures employees and ongoing projects leaked, as well as systems electronically trashed and data lost – since around Thanksgiving, Stammberger says. A briefing took place with the firm and the FBI on Monday, after Norse approached the agency with what it had discovered.

Describing the FBI as “very open and grateful for our data and assistance,” Stammberger said that the meeting was nonetheless one-sided.

Unsurprisingly, the FBI did not share any of its own findings. According to an insider, supposedly briefed on the investigation, the most popular alternative explanation for the hack – a disgruntled Sony employee, or ex-employee – was considered as a possibility, but discarded when evidence ultimately proved lacking.

That’s what the FBI is sticking with now, declining to comment any more specifically on what remains an open investigation.

While Sony may have been the victim, President Obama joined many voices in criticizing how the company had handled its reaction. The initial decision to pull controversial movie The Interview was “a mistake” the President said, as it set a dangerous precedent.

Sony later downplayed the decision, and the film was released both in theaters and as a digital download over Christmas.

North Korea, meanwhile, has maintained its innocence, accusing the US of a calculated ploy to take advantage of the hack for political purposes. Nonetheless, US officials claim there is more to the case than has been publicly detailed, effectively a “smoking gun” fingering the country that has not been shared with private investigators.

VIA Politico
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