It’s been a month since a red skull appeared on computers throughout Sony Pictures Entertainment, and ignited the largest computer hacking scandal of the year. Early rumors suggested that North Korea was behind the embarrassing security breach and the potentially devastating release of information. The FBI and the Obama Administration seemed content to officially declare North Korea behind the Sony Pictures Entertainment hacking, but now doubts are beginning to emerge.
The hackers, who call themselves the Guardians of Peace, seemed eager to be linked to North Korea. Through frightening images and oddly worded English, the Guardians of Peace made just one demand of Sony: stop the release of The Interview in any form. At no time in any communication did the Guardians of Peace deny a connection to North Korea. But the type of content released has raised questions. The swaths of data stolen from Sony Pictures Entertainment and released by the Guardians of Peace have been designed to be embarrassing to the company, and have damaged relationships in a business in which millions of dollars are at stake based on being trustworthy and likable.
Now, just a week since the FBI declared North Korea responsible for the cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, everyone from amateur sleuths to U.S. senators are casting doubt on North Korean involvement.
Consider the release of Sony Pictures Entertainment executive Amy Pascal’s emails. The release of casting news have raised suspicions of rampant racism in Hollywood. The release of salary figures which could give employees, including directors and actors, a glaring idea of how much the company values their performances. All of this info was released to cause the most public embarrassment for Sony Pictures Entertainment. Could a country as isolated as North Korea really be so savvy about American culture?
NPR reports that the central piece of evidence which suggested North Korea was behind the Sony Pictures Entertainment hacking was an IP address traced back to North Korea. However, network security analyst Scott Petry said that IP addresses can be faked from anywhere in the world quite easily.
Petry described the difference with an analogy, “It’s like saying ‘my god, this bank robbery was conducted using a Kalashnikov rifle — it must be the Russians who did it!’ “
It’s tempting to think that the sometimes bumbling United States government just doesn’t have a firm grasp on how IP addresses work, but Petry undermines that possibility by sharing an instance in which Google was hacked by the Chinese government while he was an employee of the company, but were advised by the U.S. government to keep quiet.
Petry isn’t the only one making connections to China in the Sony Pictures Entertainment hacking. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina outright accused the Chinese government of being involved.
“I can’t imagine anything this massive happening in North Korea without China being involved or at least knowing about it,” Graham told CNN’s Dana Bash.