US authorities have connected North Korea to the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, media reports have said, hours after the company announced it had scrapped the release of "The Interview" following threats of terror attacks in cinemas screening the comedy film.
Those who hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment - releasing a trove of emails and stealing personal data from company executives - were directed to do so by North Korean officials, a senior administration official was quoted by ABC News as saying. The US used painstaking cyber-sleuthing to piece together what happened, the official said, noting that the individual or group behind the hack were not in North Korea.
The official said US intelligence and the FBI pulled all the stops out given the unprecedented nature of the attack that destroyed files, shut down work stations and exploited company secrets and strategy. Quoting unnamed administration sources, The New York Times said North Korean government was "centrally involved" in the cyber-attacks on Sony's computers.
North Korea was long suspected of perpetrating the attacks in response to the James Franco and Seth Rogen-starring comedy, which centers on the assassination of the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. Early this week, Sony in a statement acknowledged major breach into its computer system.
In cancelling he Christmas day release, Sony released a statement saying, "In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release." "We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theatre-goers."
The cancellation comes after the hackers, calling themselves Guardians of Peace, released more data where they invoked the September 11, 2011 terror attacks in emails to reporters. Meanwhile, the US Government has offered its support and assistance to the Sony Pictures.
"The US government has offered Sony Pictures Entertainment support and assistance in response to the attack. The FBI has the lead for the investigation," said Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson of the National Security Council of the White House.
The United States is investigating attribution and will provide an update at the appropriate time, she said. "The US government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice, and we are considering a range of options in weighing a potential response," she added.