When news of the Sony hack first broke in late November it seemed of relatively little importance. Stories about hacking and stolen data are increasingly common these days and Sony wasn’t a particularly sympathetic victim in light of their DRM rootkit CD scandal a few years ago. I have mixed feelings about Sony as I do with most tech/entertainment conglomerates. On one hand I appreciate the media storage innovations they’ve helped develop over the years, but with rare exceptions (eg. Starship Troopers and Attack the Block), I’ve been less fond of the content they’ve produced. Some of the worst U.S. propaganda films have been from Sony/TriStar, such as Airforce One, Black Hawk Down and Zero Dark Thirty, indicating at least some filmmakers within the studio have strong government ties. Though I’ve yet to see “The Interview”, it would be no surprise if the comedy contained elements of propaganda as well.
It wasn’t initially clear if the hacks were directly related to The Interview (and still isn’t in terms of hard evidence) but the story did serve as a reminder of the importance of internet privacy and security. Leaked information also provided an interesting glimpse into the arrogant and racist culture of the upper echelons of typical multinational corporations. About a week ago after threats allegedly from the hackers began escalating (soon after the CIA torture report story started to gain momentum), a number of theater chains announced they wouldn’t screen The Interview and a few days later Sony shelved the film completely. The decision received widespread condemnation (including harsh words from Obama), but since Sony is dealing with three class action lawsuits related to leaked personal information from the hacking, they’re probably reasonably worried about further litigation due to larger leaks and possible terrorist attacks (whether “real” or hoaxed). But the most alarming aspect of the hacking story is the reaction from the U.S. government, especially last Friday’s official press release from the FBI blaming North Korea.
Typical of U.S. government agencies, they provided zero hard evidence yet attempt to justify the absence by claiming “the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information…“. So what did they provide to support their conclusion? From the press release:
- 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.
- The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.
- Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.
None of this qualifies as a smoking gun because tools and codes used by hackers are not unique identifiers (it’s not uncommon for them to share or duplicate hacking techniques). It doesn’t matter if there’s similarities with previous alleged North Korean hacking attempts or links to North Korean infrastructure because such incriminating data can be fabricated by true hackers. But the FBI tips their hand with the following paragraph where they state: “North Korea’s attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States.” In other words, they’re pushing a “cyber terror” scenario which could possibly lead to a “cyber Patriot Act” and increased geopolitical aggression. The national security state wants the Sony hack to be a “cyber 9/11” though they may also exploit larger attacks in the future (whether “genuine” or false-flag).
In the same paragraph the FBI states with absolutely no self-awareness or shame of hypocrisy: “North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior. The FBI takes seriously any attempt—whether through cyber-enabled means, threats of violence, or otherwise—to undermine the economic and social prosperity of our citizens.”
It’s obviously not considered a crime by the FBI when the U.S. government and collaborators in the private sector spy on us, suppress our freedom of speech, and/or threaten our livelihoods, and where were they when the big banks wrecked the economy? From a government that has inflicted horrific torture and countless other crimes, who are they to determine what falls outside the bounds of “acceptable state behavior”?
On the day before the release of the FBI statement, White House press secretary Josh Earnest ominously announced “[members of the national security team] would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response, and also mindful of the fact that sophisticated actors, when they carry out actions like this, are oftentimes — they’re not always but often seeking to provoke a response from the United States of America. They may believe that a response from us in one fashion or another would be advantageous to them.”
When pressed on how provoking a response might be advantageous, Earnest argues “it’s not hard to imagine that there may be some organizations or individuals who would perceive a specific response from the United States as something that might enhance their standing, either among their cohorts or colleagues, or even on the international stage.” Translation: shouldn’t all brainwashed Americans realize that being sabotaged, embargoed, and/or bombed by the U.S. is considered a badge of honor and prestige among the Axis of Evil?
As for what exactly the White House considers a “proportional response”, Earnest tenaciously sticks to his talking points: “I wouldn’t speculate at this point about the range of options that are currently under consideration. I also wouldn’t commit at this point to being entirely transparent about what that response is… I don’t anticipate that we’ll be in a position where we’re going to be able to be completely forthcoming about every single element of the response that has been decided upon… it would be inappropriate to get ahead of that investigation to start publicly discussing what our response is going to be, particularly in light of the fact that I’m confident that at least some of the measures that will be considered as a response are the kinds of things we wouldn’t want to telegraph in advance… I think I’ve been pretty candid about the fact that I’m not talking in a lot of detail about what our response is going to be.” etc…
As usual, the government is only interested in advancing a narrative that can further their agenda in secrecy (whether or not they were directly involved in setting up the crime). As with 9/11, it will be up to independent researchers and critical thinkers to ask “who truly benefits?” Who has the greatest means, motive and opportunity?