FBI adamant ‘sloppy’ North Koreans behind Sony Pictures cyberattack

8 Jan 2015

A leading FBI agent has revealed strange details behind his organisation’s claims that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures.

Speaking at the International Conference on Cyber Security, James Comey – director of the FBI – claimed IP addresses were traced back to the reclusive Asian state when the hackers appeared to forget to use proxy servers.

“It was a mistake by them,” said Comey, going further than US President Barack Obama has done so far. “It made it very clear who was doing this.”

Comey explained that the hackers, named the ‘Guardians of Peace’, used proxy servers in nearly every stage of their work, be it emailing Sony staff or posting online statements.

“But several times they got sloppy. Several times, either because they forgot or they had a technical problem, they connected directly and we could see it,” he said, according to Reuters.

“We could see that the IP addresses they used … were IPs that were exclusively used by the North Koreans. It was a mistake by them. It was a very clear indication of who was doing this. They would shut it off very quickly once they realised the mistake, but not before we saw them and knew where it was coming from,” he added.

Nothing official… yet

Considering the length and breadth of surveillance in the US, from the top down, it seems strange that, so far, North Korea has not been officially named.

One would think that America would be best placed to track – and if anything predict – where threats come from. Maybe all that snooping doesn’t achieve much at all.

In a line almost straight from A Few Good Men – not a Sony Pictures production, it should be said – Comer spoke of skeptics who feel North Korea are not to blame for the attack, and that the creation of the somehow-controversial movie The Interview was the genesis of the bad blood between the entertainment giant and Kim Jong-Un’s dictatorship.

“They don’t have the facts that I have, don’t see what I see,” he said.

Sony Pictures has been reeling for months now following the original hack back in November. Personal information of employees was leaked, unreleased films posted online and executives’ personal correspondence plastered all over the internet.

FBI’s James Comer image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic