Tracking the hackers

24 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

1D, Adele braced for new Sony hack.

How U.S. spies used networks around the globe to follow the trail from North Korea to Sony — and penetrate one of the most impenetrable targets on earth The trail that led U.S. officials to blame North Korea for the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November winds back to 2010, when the National Security Agency scrambled to break into the computer systems of a country considered one of the most impenetrable targets on earth. One Direction, Adele and David Bowie are said to be bracing themselves for the possibility that they could become the next high-profile victims of the Sony hackers.

TOKYO: Sony said Friday it was asking Japanese regulators for permission to delay the release of its earnings next month after a cyberattack at its Hollywood film unit compromised “a large amount of data “in its systems.Sony is still suffering from the cyber attack it experienced in November, thought to have been carried out by North Korea in retaliation for the film The Interview. The electronics and entertainment giant said it was delaying its third-quarter results as its financial and accounting software was still not up and running following the attack. A classified security agency program expanded into an ambitious effort, officials said, to place malware that could track the internal workings of many of the computers and networks used by the North’s hackers, a force that South Korea’s military recently said numbers roughly 6,000 people. Information that Sony bosses fear could be exposed relates to the stars’ riders, salaries, contracts and personal information, and as well as the British musicians, other big names who could be left red-faced include Beyonce, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen and Meghan Trainor.

The Tokyo-based firm, which was due to publish its earnings for the fiscal third quarter on February 4, said the hack attack was unlikely to have a material impact on its financial results. General Electric has reported a 9 per cent rise in quarterly profit as its businesses that sell power-generating turbines and jet engines helped offset weak sales in its oil and gas unit. Most are commanded by the country’s main intelligence service, called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and Bureau 121, its secretive hacking unit, with a large outpost in China.

Sony’s movie division was hacked last year following controversy over its comedy The Interview, which features an assassination plot on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and the FBI claims to have traced hacking group Guardians of the Peace to Pyongyang in North Korea. Sony said it still planned to issue a press release and hold an earnings conference on the originally scheduled date “so as to provide investors, shareholders, analysts, media and other stakeholders with updated forecasts of Sony’s… results”. The evidence gathered by the “early warning radar” of software painstakingly hidden to monitor North Korea’s activities proved critical in persuading President Barack Obama to accuse the government of Kim Jong Un of ordering the Sony attack, according to the officials and experts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified NSA operation.

Already personal information about many of their movie stars, including passport details, the pseudonyms they use and health records, have been leaked. “Bosses now fear similar details have been hacked on their music stars, including the demands each artist makes while on tour. McDonald’s has warned that business will be weak in the first half of 2015 and it is cutting its annual construction budget to the lowest in more than five years as it opens fewer restaurants in struggling markets. There is a lot of nervousness at Sony HQ.” The hackers have already revealed a top secret plan by Sony Music and CEO Michael Lynton to sell off the music publishing arm Sony/ATV, which owns Michael Jackson’s estate and the copyright to most of The Beatles’ songs. Sony denied the sale would happen and Lynton was said to have issued a blanket apology to Sony/ATV head Martin Bandier and CEO Doug Morris, apparently “in advance for whatever else comes out”.

Shares of online data storage provider Box Inc rose as much as 77 per cent in their market debut yesterday as investors bet on the company’s ability to turn profitable in a highly competitive market. But in this case “he had no doubt,” according to one senior U.S. military official. “Attributing where attacks come from is incredibly difficult and slow,” said James A.

Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The government spends billions of dollars on the technology, which was crucial to the American and Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, and the documents previously disclosed by Edward J. Britain’s banks must do more to protect themselves and the wider financial system from growing and evolving cyber crime, the Bank of England said yesterday.

But fearing the exposure of its methods in a country that remains a black hole for intelligence gathering, U.S. officials have declined to talk publicly about the role the technology played in Washington’s assessment that the North Korean government had ordered the attack on Sony. China’s manufacturing growth stalled for the second straight month in January and companies had to cut prices at a faster clip to win new business, adding to worries about growing deflationary pressures in the economy, a private survey showed. British mobile banking software maker Monitise said yesterday it has received “a number of expressions of interest” after putting itself up for sale. In recent weeks, investigators have concluded that the hackers spent more than two months, from mid-September to mid-November, mapping Sony’s computer systems, identifying critical files and planning how to destroy computers and servers. “They were incredibly careful, and patient,” said one person briefed on the investigation.

But he added that even with their view into the North’s activities, U.S. intelligence agencies “couldn’t really understand the severity” of the destruction that was coming when the attacks began Nov. 24. Toronto-based Oanda and Britain’s ETX Capital have joined the race to buy fellow online foreign exchange broker Alpari UK, looking to expand aggressively in the sector shakeout prompted by last week’s turmoil in the Swiss franc. Jang Sae Yul, a former North Korean army programmer who defected in 2007, speaking in an interview in Seoul, said: “They have built up formidable hacking skills. For a brief time, it appeared ahead of South Korea and of China, which not only caught up but also came to build major elements of their economic success on their hardware and software. When they returned, they formed the core of the External Information Intelligence Office, which hacked into websites, penetrated firewalls and stole information abroad.

According to Kim, the military began training computer “warriors” in earnest in 1996 and two years later opened Bureau 121, now the primary cyberattack unit. Jang said they were envied, in part because of their freedom to travel. “They used to come back with exotic foreign clothes and expensive electronics like rice cookers and cameras,” he said.

Jang said that as time went on, the North began diverting high school students with the best math skills into a handful of top universities, including a military school specializing in computer-based warfare called Mirim University, which he attended as a young army officer. Lim Jong-in, dean of the Graduate School of Information Security at Korea University, said those addresses were traced back to Shenyang, and fell within a spectrum of IP addresses linked to North Korean companies.

But after the North issued its warnings about Sony’s movie last June, U.S. officials appear to have made no reference to the risk in their discussions with Sony executives. The result is that U.S. officials began to focus on North Korea only after the destructive attacks began in November, when pictures of skulls and gruesome images of Sony executives appeared on the screens of company employees. (That propaganda move by the hackers may have worked to Sony’s benefit: Some employees unplugged their computers immediately, saving some data from destruction.)

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