The cyber-attack on Sony pictures still has a few more twists to the story. New documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that the American National Security Agency had already hacked into the North Korean government systems, and was watching everything it was doing.
Many were surprised when US President Barack Obama officially accused North Korea of perpetrating the cyber-attack; the first time such a thing has happened. His evidence, which was not revealed, appeared to be circumstantial and even information provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation could not say what or how they were certain that it was the work of the communist regime.
The new Snowden documents revealed by German newspaper der Spiegel revealed that the NSA had been monitoring North Korea’s intelligence division, known as the Reconnaissance General Bureau or Bureau 121, since 2010. Malware planted in the Bureau’s computers allowed the Americans to log and view everything the Koreans were doing, including monitoring its preferred internet connections that incidentally run through Malaysia.
Questions were raised about why Sony was not warned about the impending attack if the NSA was aware that it was coming. However, it was pointed out that the agency did not expect the severity of the threat and considered the spear phishing activities targeting Sony Pictures employees nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, most of the NSA’s activities were focused on North Korea’s nuclear weapons project; and the agency did not bother too much until last November when the Sony Pictures incident occurred.
New economic sanctions have been placed on North Korea since the US accused the county of the cyber-attack, although that appears to be unlikely to deter it from continuing these activities. The question remains is whether anyone is prepared to defend against future attacks.