U.S. "Hacked" North Korea Years Before Sony Hack, New Report Finds

An investigative report from The New York Times reveals that the U.S. government may have hacked North Korea long before the nation allegedly conducted a wide-scale cyber attack on Sony Pictures. According to The Times, the U.S. government gained special intel about North Korea all the way back in 2010 through the National Security Agency. Then, the NSA reportedly hacked into North Korea's networks — though it took a long and unwieldy route to get there.

Using details from former U.S. government officials, as well as a newly revealed NSA document, The Times reports the NSA hacked into North Korea's servers by first going through China, which is believed to be the third-party host of many of North Korea's hackers. The NSA then went through Malaysian Internet connections before breaching North Korea directly with help from the South Korean government, according to The Times.

So, what does all this have to do with the hack on Sony's internal servers last November? Officials say the intelligence gained during this cyber-security probe in 2010 helped the U.S. government and the Obama administration pin the devastating Sony hack on North Korea. One official told The Times that President Obama "had no doubt" that North Korea orchestrated the cyber attack, and so he felt comfortable accusing the nation — the first time the United States has publicly accused another nation of a cyber attack.

However, what the new report doesn't answer is how the NSA failed to warn Sony prior to the release of the controversial film The Interview, or why the NSA couldn't guard against possible North Korean cyber attacks even though it had the intelligence.

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Sony reported the hack to the FBI on Nov. 24, just a month before The Interview was scheduled for its theatrical release. The hack, conducted by a group calling themselves the "Guardians of Peace," severely compromised the movie studio's internal servers, leaking the personal information of thousands of employees, including high-profile actors and directors. The group also began threatening movie theaters that planned to release The Interview, prompting Sony to cancel the film.

In early January, the United States placed new economic sanctions on North Korea in response to the hack. President Obama has said the sanctions were meant to target North Korean leaders, not the nation's citizens.

Meanwhile, North Korea continues to insist that it had no role in cyber attack.

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