Did the North Koreans Hack Sony?

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Last week reports emerged that Japanese electronics giant Sony had been hacked by an obscure group of hackers calling themselves the “Guardians of Peace” or “GOP”. The hackers managed to infiltrate almost all of Sony’s corporate network, with their malware causing a menacing image to appear on almost all of the company’s computers. Threatening (in poor English) to expose all of the companies secrets, the hackers prompted Sony to take the problem very seriously.

After banning staff from using email, or in some cases just sending them home, the company brought in external security experts. It was then, in the last few days that they discovered something very interesting about the hack. The malware which the hackers had used to attack the company was partially coded in Korean. Given that South Korea isn’t home to a large hacking scene, this left people to assume one further possibility: the attack came from North Korea.

This may seem like a pretty crazy suggestion. North Korea is notorious for its lack of connection to the internet, or indeed any of the digital world. Very few people own computers, and those that do are highly regulated by the government. Despite this country has actually been reportedly building up its native cyberwarfare capacities in recent years, possibly with help from experienced hackers in China.

But why would the Hermit Kingdom target Sony? Earlier this year the company was behind a comedy film called The Interview, set in North Korea. The film, which revolved around a pair of journalists trying to kill Kim Jong Un, reportedly enraged the North Korean leadership, who at one point threatened retaliation over its content. Could this have been the reason that the country decided to go after Sony?

While this is still pure speculation, and such an action would be rather petty, North Korea has very rarely acted as a rational actor on the world stage. As well as filling the role of a rather pointless retaliation over a film, this attack could have also functioned more as a test of the country's cyber war capabilities. With this in mind, one might say the attack, which completed infiltrated the company, was a resounding success.

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