US Hacked North Korea’s Networks Years Ago

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Data collected by the NSA from malware in North Korea’s computer networks reportedly helped Obama conclude the North attacked Sony Pictures

The US government used evidence gathered from within North Korea’s Internet infrastructure to reach its conclusion that the country was behind November’s cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

The US’ National Security Agency (NSA) began a surveillance programme of North Korea’s networks and computer systems in 2010, and data gathered through this programme was used to help convince President Barack Obama to back the claim that the Sony hack was an attack by North Korea, according to the report.

north korea

Hackers and security experts have expressed scepticism that the North Korean government was directly involved in the hack, but the US government has used its accusation as the basis for imposing sanctions against North Korea.

The NSA initially hacked North Korea’s networks in order to gather information on its nuclear weapons programme, accessing the country through the Chinese networks that link it to the outside world, according to the report, which cited unnamed US and foreign officials and computer experts briefed on the surveillance programme.

The programme makes use of malware to help track the inner workings of North Korea’s computer systems and map its networks. Such malware was also used in a joint US-Israeli programme that attacked Iran’s nuclear programme and has reportedly been deployed widely against China.

Guardians of Peace

A hacker group called Guardians of Peace claimed responsibility for the Sony hack, which damaged the studio’s network and resulted in the release of embarrassing data and the leak of upcoming films.

The North Korean government, while expressing approval of the attack, has denied it was directly involved, and technical experts have said they are sceptical that the country could have been behind the attack. Hacker group Anonymous also said “the hacks didn’t come from North Korea”, and GOP itself also ridiculed the FBI for its claim of North Korean state involvement.

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