Sony Pictures GOP hackers ‘got sloppy’ … or not?

Pierluigi Paganini January 08, 2015

The director of the FBI has provided further details of the cyber attack on Sony Pictures, which claim that North Korea was responsible.

The unique certainty on the cyber attack on the Sony Pictures is the name of the hacking team that has managed the offensive, the Guardians of Peace (GOP). The FBI linked the GoP to the North Korea and the US Government recently announced the exacerbating of economic sanctions 10 senior North Korean officials and three entities of the country.

Yesterday, speaking at the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) at Fordham University in New York, the director of the FBI James Comey confirmed the claim and once again accused the North Korean government for the massive cyber attack against Sony Pictures.

‘[he has] “very high confidence” Pyongyang was behind it and disclosed new details’ reported FoxNews. “He said U.S. investigators were able to trace emails and Internet posts sent by the Guardians of Peace, the group behind the attack, and link them to North Korea. Comey said most of the time, the group sent emails threatening Sony employees and made various other statements online using proxy servers to disguise where the messages were coming from.”

Comey explained that despite the hackers adopted all the necessary precautions to hide their identity, for example relying on proxy connections to hide their real IP address each time they sent threatening emails, on some occasions they failed to masquerade their origin. The investigators have discovered the attackers’ IP addresses, which were used exclusively by North Korean government, confirming the hypothesis that it is a state-sponsored attack.
“In nearly every case, [the Sony hackers known as the Guardians of Peace] used proxy servers to disguise where they were coming from in sending these emails and posting these statements. But several times they got sloppy,” Comey said. “Several times, either because they forgot or because of a technical problem, they connected directly and we could see that the IPs they were using…were exclusively used by the North Koreans.”
The information collected by the FBI gives a “very clear indication of who was doing this.”

It’ s the first time that the FBI discloses this information, in the past the Bureau claimed the North Korea basically from the results of the analysis of the wiper malware used by hackers, the malicious code in fact was written in Korean and presents many similarities with other malicious code used by the government of the North Korea in cyber attacks against the South Korean systems.


FBI accuses North Korea Sony Pictures hack 2


The investigation is still ongoing, the cyber experts are evaluating how the hackers breached the Sony Pictures network to exfiltrate sensitive data from the corporate. According to early rumors, Sony Pictures had been targeted by “spear phishing” campaigns in previous months.

Another topic debated by the  FBI director is the wide diffusion of encryption on mobile devices, which is hindering the investigation by law enforcement.

There are significant public safety issues here (and) we need to talk about it,” Comey added.

Although all point the finger at North Korea, I find it extremely interesting and plausible to the clarification of the popular expert Jeffrey Carr from his blog doubts the arguments provided by the FBI.

“The evidence that the FBI believes it has against the DPRK in the Sony attack stems from the data that it received on the Dark Seoul attack last year from the private sector. The FBI, the NSA, and the private security companies upon which they rely for information believe that any attack linked to a North Korean IP address must be one that is government sanctioned since North Korea maintains such tight control over its Internet and Intranet. That is the FBI’s single point of failure because while that might have been true prior to 2009, it isn’t true any longer. Access to those blocks is relatively easy if you go in through China, Thailand, Japan, Germany or other countries where North Korea has strategic connections

Stay tuned …

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Sony Pictures, FBI)

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