North Korean officials are denying their secretive nation is the villain in a major hack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, which resulted in the theft of a large amount of confidential data, including executives’ salaries, employees’ Social Security numbers and business documents, according to media reports.
The cyber crooks also posted five Sony movies on file-sharing sites, including the yet-to-be-released “Annie,” Bloomberg reported in December 2014.
Suspicion fell on hackers linked to North Korea, which has protested Sony’s upcoming release of “The Interview,” a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that centers on a plot to assassinate that nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un. But a North Korean diplomat called such claims a “fabrication,” according to Voice of America, a news service funded by the U.S. government.
Just days before it was set to hit the big screen, Sony canceled its planned Christmas Day release of “The Interview” following online threats.
Sony’s network was attacked November 24, with an image of a skeleton and the text “Hacked by #GOP” appearing on company computers, NBC News reported. A group identifying itself as Guardians of Peace said it would divulge company secrets.
According to the Associated Press, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a private security firm are probing the cyber intrusion. The FBI also warned businesses about “destructive malware” written in Korean, although it did not say the alert was connected to the Sony breach.
The Thanksgiving week hack was the second online attack in recent months targeting the electronics company, which is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, and has about 140,000 employees worldwide. In August 2014, the company took its PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network offline, citing “an attempt to overwhelm our network with artificially high traffic.”
“Although this has impacted your ability to access our network and enjoy our services, no personal information has been accessed,” a company official wrote in a blog post.
The popular PlayStation Network also was targeted in April 2011 by “an external intrusion,” Sony said at the time.
Hacking and other cyber crimes are expected to cost the global economy about $455 billion in 2014, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sony joins a growing list of major corporations targeted by cyber crooks in the past year, including Home Depot, JPMorgan Chase, Target and Neiman Marcus.
Spending on information security measures by businesses worldwide will top $70 billion in 2014, research firm Gartner reports. Meanwhile, demand for cybersecurity professionals remains strong, with the federal government projecting 37% employment growth for information security analysts from 2012 to 2022.