By Dom Serafini
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Vin Diesel, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, where were you when America needed you to fight Dr. Evil and Mini-Me… I mean the “chubette” 32-year-old North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un?
In your movies you could eradicate evil, terrorism, drug smuggling and Islamic fundamentalism, but you can’t put up a fight against a dictator who is powerless outside his own country of 24 million starving people? Or, perhaps, you all knew that “chubette” wasn’t involved at all in the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)!
In the recent book, My Time With The Sons of North Korea’s Elite, Suki Kim writes, “Until recently the government [of North Korea] has concealed the existence of the World Wide Web.” According to Kim, the computers of students at the University of Science and Technology in Pyongyang are not connected to the Internet (they have Intranet, an internal network).
Clearly, North Korea doesn’t have the means to mount a cyber attack of the type suffered by SPE. This assumption is confirmed by notorious Puerto Rican hacker Hector Monsegur (now working with the FBI), who said that North Korea has only one ISP across the entire nation and an attack of the SPE proportion would have paralyzed their Internet capability for months.
However, North Korea has an ally in China, a country well-versed in hackings; in May 2013 the Pentagon accused China of cyber attacks against the U.S. Reportedly, 90 percent of cyber actions against the U.S. originate in China.
Curiously, “Guardians of Peace,” the signature of the SPE hacker, comes from a quote by the late U.S. President Richard Nixon during his 1972 visit to China.
The U.S. government traced the Sony Pictures hacking to North Korea and said that the attack has been routed through China and then bounced from servers in Singapore, Thailand and Bolivia.
It is also possible that it was executed in China and routed through North Korea (unlikely), so that China would not be blamed; or that it was done by Chinese experts in Pyongyang with modified Chinese hardware (conceivably), considering that North Korea uses Chinese settings and Chinese-operated networks; or that it originated in China using North Korean hardcoded IP addresses (improbable).
But the point is not where the attack originated; the question is what to do against state-sponsored cyberattacks that could basically paralyze a nation?
First, a cyber attack has to be considered a “Weapon of Mass Destruction.” And this is a real WMD, not the virtual one attributed to Dick Cheney to invade Iraq. A Cyber WMD can cause airplanes to collide, trains to derail and many electricity-related accidents.
Second, hackers have to be labeled “terrorists,” and third, states that sponsor or condone cyber attacks have to be deprived of the Internet, just like the world wants to deprive Iran from obtaining enriched plutonium and uranium to develop nuclear weapons.
How? Well, the Internet is maintained by the Los Angeles-based ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) a non-profit organization that operates with the participation of many world governments.
ICANN can basically disconnect every nation that sponsors cyber terrorism from the Internet. Nations that are disconnected can then develop their own intranet and connect with other countries, but outside the Internet.
Then, there is a crucial consideration. If Kim Jong-un wanted to give SPE’s movie The Interview — about his assassination — better exposure and popularity that no marketing geniuses could ever accomplish, he succeeded. However, North Korea is too adept at effective propaganda to fall into that textbook trap, so it’s possible that SPE’s hacking was an inside job as many experts (from sources like CloudFlare, Wired, F-Secure, Errata Security, Taia Global and others) have being saying.
The signature Guardians of Peace, could be taken from Marvel Studios’ movie “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Plus, North Koreans were convinced that President Obama actually produced The Interview.
With so much evidence, why is the FBI insisting on blaming the North Koreans? The answer is politics. For the U.S. it’s the perfect opportunity to get China fed up with Kim Jong-un, especially now that prominent Chinese General Wang Hong-guang wrote a critical comment on North Korea in a state-run newspaper.
Evidence of an inside job also comes from an extortion note written in poor Korean and sent to SPE on November 21, three days before the cyber attack. The hacker signed the note as “God’sApstls,” a phrase also found inside some of the malware used in November 24 attack.
And for that, ICANN is as powerless as Schwarzenegger’s counterparts on CSI: Cyber and Scorpion.