North Korea’s Cyber Skills Get Attention Amid Sony Hacking Mystery

Editor’s Note: Katharine Moon spoke with NPR’s “All things Considered” on the recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures and North Korea’s possible involvement in this attack. Read an excerpt below and 
listen to the full interview

Audie Cornish, host: North Korea says, it wasn’t us. The country is denying its involvement in the embarrassing corporate hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment. That hack happened last week, revealing staff medical records and salaries of nearly 7,000 global employees. It’s thought that some unreleased films were leaked, as well. So could North Korea actually pull off something like this? NPR’s Elise Hu reports on the cyber-espionage skills of the so-called Hermit Kingdom.

Elise Hu: Kim Jong Un, the dictator of North Korea, is revered as a god, but only by his people who are part of the most cut off society in the world. In America, he’s about to be featured in a slapstick comedy starring well-known goofballs Seth Rogen and James Franco.

Elise Hu: It sounds like just a silly movie, right? Well, not to the North Korean dictator.

Katharine Moon: The North Korean state has been taking this really seriously.

Elise Hu: Katharine Moon is the chair in Korea Studies at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Katharine Moon: North Koreans do not have an independent world of art and entertainment. And so they don’t separate propaganda from entertainment. So it’s very difficult for them to understand that the U.S. and many other countries have a, you know, completely independent world that’s called Hollywood.

Elise Hu: The Hollywood studio releasing the film – Sony – shrugged off North Korea’s promise of, quote, “merciless counter-measures” until last week. That’s when hackers hit the studio. They stole 40 gigs of sensitive data, including unreleased films, social security numbers and details on salary negotiations. Amy Chang is a cybersecurity researcher at the Center for New American Security.

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