In the wake of the Sony hack, cyber-intrigue continues

December 23, 2014

The fallout from the extensive hack of Sony Pictures continues to play out as a virtual game of cat and mouse. U.S. officials have blamed North Korea for the hack, and President Obama has vowed a response, though nature and timing of the reaction remain unclear. There has been no new action from the hackers, as they seem satisfied that their demand that “The Interview,” a comedy about the assassination of North Korean despot Kim Jong-un, has been shelved, at least for now.

But that’s doesn’t mean the plot of this caper has stalled. As this Reuters graphic shows, North Korea’s Internet access was spotty at points Tuesday, and then went entirely dark for an almost 9-hour period that lasted into early Wednesday morning. While it remains unclear who was behind the outage, experts think it is unlikely that the U.S. is responsible. “If it is an attack, it’s highly unlikely it’s the United States. More likely it’s a 15-year-old in a Guy Fawkes mask,” CloudFlare president Matthew Prince told CNN.

President Obama has said that the hack wasn’t an act of war, but instead an instance of “cyber-vandalism,” but the U.S. is in a peculiar position, as none of the options for retaliation are very palatable. North Korea has barely one  percent of the Internet access that Afghanistan enjoys (let that sink in), diplomatic relations are essentially nil, and economic sanctions are already so severe that U.S. trade with North Korea barely breaks into the tens of millions of dollars. Both Sony’s chief executive, Kazuo Hirai and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a bind, too, as North Korea’s Kim is regarded as a sufficiently loose cannon that Japan’s proximity puts its physical security at risk.

What will happen next seems to be anyone’s guess, and the whole conundrum is genuinely intriguing, although it’s safe to say that everyone outside of North Korea would prefer the situation to be as fictitious as the movie that started this whole mess.

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