Obama vows U.S. response to North Korea over Sony cyber attack

BLACKEAGLE

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By Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:56pm EST


1 of 3. U.S. President Barack Obama responds to a question after his end of the year press conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, December 19, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing


2 of 3. FBI Director James Comey takes a question from a reporter during a news conference at the FBI office in Boston, Massachusetts November 18, 2014.
Credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder


3 of 3. A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film "The Interview" in Los Angeles, December 11, 2014.
Credit: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama vowed on Friday to respond to a devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures that he blamed on North Korea, and scolded the Hollywood studio for caving in to what he described as a foreign dictator imposing censorship in America.

Obama said the cyber attack caused a lot of damage to Sony but that the company should not have let itself be intimidated into halting the public release of "The Interview," a lampoon portraying the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We will respond," Obama told an end-of-year news conference. "We'll respond proportionally, and we'll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose."

Earlier, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it had determined that North Korea was behind the hacking of Sony, saying Pyongyang's actions fell "outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior."

Obama said North Korea appeared to have acted alone. Washington began consultations with Japan, China, South Korea and Russia seeking their assistance in reining in North Korea.

It was the first time the United States had directly accused another country of a cyber attack of such magnitude on American soil and set up a possible new confrontation between longtime foes Washington and Pyongyang.

The destructive nature of the attack, and threats from the hackers that led the Hollywood studio to pull the movie, set it apart from previous cyber intrusions, the FBI said.

A North Korean diplomat at the United Nations in New York said Pyongyang had nothing to do with the cyber attack. "DPRK (North Korea) is not part of this," the diplomat told Reuters.

Obama said he wished that Sony had spoken to him first before yanking the movie, suggesting it could set a bad precedent. "I think they made a mistake," he said.

"We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States," he said. "Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don't like, or news reports that they don't like."

Sony Pictures Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton insisted the company did not capitulate to hackers and said it is still looking for alternative platforms to release "The Interview." Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for Sony had said the company did not have further release plans for the $44 million film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

"We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down," Lynton told CNN. "We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie."

OBAMA'S OPTIONS

Despite Obama's stern warning to North Korea, his options for responding to the computer attack by the impoverished state appeared limited. The president declined to be specific about any actions under consideration.

North Korea has been subject to U.S. sanctions for more than 50 years, but they have had little effect on its human rights policies or its development of nuclear weapons. It has become expert in hiding its often criminal money-raising activities, largely avoiding traditional banks.

The FBI said technical analysis of malicious software used in the Sony attack found links to malware that "North Korean actors" had developed and found a "significant overlap" with "other malicious cyber activity" previously tied to Pyongyang.

But it otherwise gave scant details on how it concluded that North Korea was behind the attack.

U.S. experts say Obama's options could include cyber retaliation, financial sanctions, criminal indictments against individuals implicated in the attack or even a boost in U.S. military support to South Korea.

It could also take the largely symbolic step of restoring North Korea to its list of countries designated as sponsors of terrorism, which carries automatic restrictions.

But the effect of any response would be limited given North Korea's isolation and the fact that it is already heavily sanctioned for its disputed nuclear program.

There is also the risk that an overly harsh U.S. response could provoke Pyongyang to escalate into cyber warfare.

"GUARDIANS OF PEACE"

The attack on Sony, more than three weeks ago, was conducted by hackers calling themselves "Guardians of Peace."

The FBI said the hack rendered thousands of Sony's computers inoperable, forced the company to take its entire computer network offline, stole proprietary information and confidential communications.

U.S. movie theater chains had said they would not show the film after hackers made threats against cinemas and audiences. Many in Hollywood and Washington criticized Sony's cancellation as capitulating to the hackers.

Security experts said Sony's decision to shelve the film could mean that more businesses will be targeted for cyber extortion. "I fully expect to see more actions like this against film studios or other soft targets," said Jeffrey Carr, chief executive officer of Taia Global, a cyber security company.

Obama called on the new Congress to work with his administration on new cyber security legislation.

Non-conventional capabilities such as cyber warfare and nuclear technology are the weapons of choice for the impoverished North, defectors said in Seoul.

They said the Sony attack may have been a practice run for North Korea's "cyber army" as part of its long-term goal of being able to cripple its rivals' telecommunications and energy grids.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Susan Heavey, David Chance, Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Ju-min Park and Jack Kim in Seoul, Editing by David Storey, Bernard Orr)

Obama vows U.S. response to North Korea over Sony cyber attack| Reuters
 

downsouth

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The US must respond swiftly and appropriately. Whenever there is a dispute with North Korea, there is always that lingering threat of China backing up its little brother but no Korean dictator should have any say as to what Hollywood churns out. The Interview is nothing more than a political comedy. These United States are about voicing opinions against anything or anyone and Obama should make that clear.
 

ally79

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The US definitely needs to do something, and although it is a rare occurrence, I do agree with President Obama's stance on Sony's initial decision. I think that many people think that the US was responsible for North Korea's internet outage the other day, but I have strong doubts that we would just take out their internet for such a brief period of time.
 

Divbyxero

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I personally think that the US was responsible for blocking North Korea 's internet the other day. As for why, most likely as a show of strength. I agree that the 'attack' did not do much, if anything physically. But mentally is a whole other matter and North Korea better watch out.
 

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The US must respond swiftly and appropriately. Whenever there is a dispute with North Korea, there is always that lingering threat of China backing up its little brother but no Korean dictator should have any say as to what Hollywood churns out. The Interview is nothing more than a political comedy. These United States are about voicing opinions against anything or anyone and Obama should make that clear.
The US definitely needs to do something, and although it is a rare occurrence, I do agree with President Obama's stance on Sony's initial decision. I think that many people think that the US was responsible for North Korea's internet outage the other day, but I have strong doubts that we would just take out their internet for such a brief period of time.
I personally think that the US was responsible for blocking North Korea 's internet the other day. As for why, most likely as a show of strength. I agree that the 'attack' did not do much, if anything physically. But mentally is a whole other matter and North Korea better watch out.
The US along with the EU can do wonders if they wish to do anything no one can stop them. Simply isolate NK further more by taking a collective decision that makes the dictator surrender once and for all. This can include Japan and South Korea as well.

I don't think China can stand against all of them. The US, EU, Japan, South Korea combined have many cards to play with be it economic ones or political.
 

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Sony's CEO has disputed that the company never reached out, saying he spoke to a senior White House adviser about the situation before Sony announced the decision. White House officials said Sony did discuss cybersecurity with the federal government, but that the White House was never consulted on the decision not to distribute the film
 

ally79

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I wonder how North Korea feels about it now that the film has been released? Oh, wait they called the President a monkey. I am sure he's so scared and offended. I do find it interesting that now security experts are saying the NK was NOT responsible for the hack at Sony. What if this really was nothing more than a ploy by Sony to generate interest in a movie that they freely admitted sucked?
 
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I think, in this particular scenario, what Obama should do is just hit them first and talk about it later. Cyberwarfare does not require any declaration of intent. Just do it. I doubt if anyone, other than the North Koreans, are going to cry foul or scream about human rights, if Obama just launch a massive cyber attack on North Korea and shut them down permanently. Can it be done? Why not? If the North Koreans, with their limited resources, can do what they have already done in cyberspace, the US should be able to retaliate in kind, 1000-fold.
 

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Movies are constantly made all the time, about plenty of things that happen in the world. I don't think that the interview should have gone to the level in which it did. However Obama was right that the company should not have felt intimidated and should have thought more about making a movie like this and the problems that could have arise, but such is the world of social media. It will be over today, and a new thing tomorrow.
 
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I think the movie actually produced a good result. The response from the North Koreans showed that there are lots of other people in the world who are IT-savvy and they don't all live in the developed countries. This should make the US and other developed countries re-think their strategy in cyberspace.
 

rga1999

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In order for this approach to work it has got to be done quickly. We can't say we are going to respond to this with out all the facts. We have to have undeniable evidence to respond. Can't just go picking fights with people. This is a war I dont think we want to just jump right into.
 

hiddenwolf

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Last I checked it was Sony's fault for not upgrading their security in the first place. In fact, the hack happened many months ago. The fact that no red flags flew up when terabits of data were being downloaded from there servers makes me wonder if Sony even cared in the first place.
 
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In order for this approach to work it has got to be done quickly. We can't say we are going to respond to this with out all the facts. We have to have undeniable evidence to respond. Can't just go picking fights with people. This is a war I dont think we want to just jump right into.
Like I said earlier, we don't have to make any official announcements before starting a cyber war. We don't have to let the enemy know in advance that we are going to hack them. Just do it.
 

diprod

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The US must act on it immediately but they must be accurate and not just act in theory. Enough evidence should be made so they won't be humiliated. Hackers are wise these days and it would be easy to blame North Korea from their previous hacking. And this is why it is hard to say they are innocent.
 

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I do believe that this is some sort of distraction. Of all threats of attack that North Korea has made over the years, the only thing America freaks out about is not being able to see a movie that probably isn't even that funny to begin with?
I just cannot believe the production of a movie has caused this much controversy and has led to hacking and threats to bomb movie theaters. Either the U.S is just screwing with North Korea, or it is the other way around, but I cannot tell which.
 

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