In news that will shock no one, it has been revealed that not only did the National Security Agency hack into North Korea’s cyber networks long before the Sony hack, but it was this action that led to the proof that the country were behind the leak.
According to a recently released document, and confirmed by anonymous officials, the NSA hacked through China’s security networks powering North Korea’s internet back in 2010.
Back doors for information were placed within those networks as part of an “early warning” system. If North Korea decided to launch a cyber attack on the US or allies, the NSA would know about it before, or soon after.
This explains why President Barack Obama made the move no other president has, and specifically named North Korea as a cyber attack culprit. In the past, allusions have been made, but direct accusations have never been placed.
While we only have the word of those anonymous experts to go on, this seems likely. Tracing cyber attacks are difficult to do, at best. Sometimes, it is impossible. The percentage of cases that leave a clear enough trail to follow take a long time to work out.
The accusations against North Korea were almost immediate. This points to the claims being correct, and the US having direct insight into the source of the original attack.
Of all of the questions this raises, the NY Times brought up one of the most compelling: if this is an early warning system, and the government knew that the hack was coming, why didn’t they tell Sony? Why not step in?
It could be at the that at the time they didn’t feel a leak of a few movies, whatever the potential financial fallout for the industry, was worth revealing that they had broken into the network. Things would have changed when the leak became a full terrorist threat against theaters that planned to screen the film.
But that just brings up another question: why accuse them now. It was still soon enough that North Korea would see it as proof that the NSA had breached their networks. Had they already known?
Cyber security is a tricky issue, as are cyber attacks. Plenty have occurred with backhanded suggestions of their origin. Could this be a signal that the US is planning on stepping forward more aggressively with North Korea than in the past?