President Barack Obama on Friday blasted Sony pictures for capitulating to hackers and chided the North Korean dictator for getting upset over a satirical movie, a Seth Rogen film.
Obama said Sony’s decision to cancel the coming release of The Interview, a film lampooning Kim Jong-un, was a “mistake”. “I wish they had spoken to me first,” he added.
Addressing his annual year-end news briefing, President Obama said he would have advised Sony to not get “intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks”.
Sony cancelled the movie’s release scheduled for later this month faced with threats of 9/11 style attacks by a group that hacked its network late November.
The FBI has linked the hacking and the threats directly to the North Korean government, which, however, denied any role in it and sought a joint investigation into it.
After the president’s remarks, Sony defended itself saying it was left with no choice but to cancel the release when cinemas around the country refused to screen the film.
The company was now “actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform”, which could be, as suggested by many, online. Think Netflix.
The president was not done on the subject yet. Without naming the North Korean dictator, he said: “I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James (Franco).”
On a serious note, however, the president said the US will respond to the hacking “proportionately” at a “time and place of our choosing”. He refused to define or describe it.
Obama said he has sought options from his advisers. North Korea is already under severe US sanctions, and more of it was a possibility but of questionable impact.
Despite Sony’s obvious folly, the US is looking at the hacking as more than an attack one of its companies and employees — as an attack on “our freedom of expression and way of life”.
The FBI has directly linked the hacking to the North Korean government and naming it officially in a statement issued just hours ahead of the president’s new briefing.
The FBI said, “Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.”
And there was significant “overlap” between the infrastructure used in this attack and previous “malicious cyber activity” traced to North Korea”. The FBI found that several Internet protocol addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure “communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack”
And, lastly, the tool used in the Sony hacking were similar to a cyber attack in March 2013 against South Korean banks and media companies.