North Korea, Angrily Denying Sony Attack, Proposes Joint Investigation With US – New York Times

By MARTIN FACKLER
December 20, 2014

Tokyo — Warning of “serious consequences” if the United States retaliates against it, North Korea on Saturday insisted that it was not behind a damaging cyberattack on Sony Pictures, and offered to prove its innocence by proposing a joint investigation with Washington to identify the hackers.

The message, attributed to an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman and carried by North Korea’s state-run news service, appears to be the secretive regime’s response to President Obama’s statement the day before that the United States would retaliate for the hacking, which has shaken one of Hollywood’s largest studios. American officials said the hackers’ methods and other clues led them to conclude that North Korea was behind the attack, which resulted in the posting online of Sony’s confidential emails and unreleased movies.

The cyberattack and also emailed threats of terrorist attacks against movie theaters prompted Sony to cancel the Christmas release of “The Interview,” a comedy about the assassination of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. North Korea has previously denied responsibility for the hacking, though it called the attacks a “righteous deed” by its “supporters and sympathizers.”

On Saturday, North Korea described the American claims that it was behind the attacks as slander. It also warned of serious consequences if the United States rejects its offer of a joint investigation, said the statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, according to The Associated Press.

It quoted the unidentified spokesman as saying that any joint inquiry would prove that the North was not behind the cyberattack.

“The U.S. should bear in mind that it will face serious consequences in case it rejects our proposal for joint investigation and presses for what it called countermeasures,” the spokesman said in the statement, the A.P. reported.

“We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture, as what the C.I.A. does,” the statement said.

It is unlikely that the Obama administration will take the offer from the North seriously. While some computer experts still express doubts whether the North was actually behind the attack, American officials said it was similar to what was believed to be a North Korean cyberattack last year on South Korean banks and broadcasters. One key similarity was the fact that the hackers erased data from the computers, something many cyberthieves do not do.

Some American officials have said that North Korea appears to have embraced cyberterrorism as its new weapon of choice for making political points, and is possibly trying to extort new concessions out of the United States and its allies. While North Korea is an impoverished nation with so little Internet usage that it is essentially a black hole in cyberspace, the attacks showed a high level of sophistication and hacking expertise.

The hackers did considerable commercial damage to Sony Pictures, posting embarrassing emails, detailed breakdowns of executive salaries, digital copies of unreleased movies and even the unpublished script for an upcoming James Bond movie.

Sony said the threats against theaters left it no choice but to cancel the Dec. 25 release of “The Interview,” in which Seth Rogen and James Franco play television journalists who get a scoop interview with Mr. Kim, and then find themselves recruited by the C.I.A. to kill him.

On Friday, Mr. Obama faulted Sony’s decision to withhold the movie, saying that it created a precedent of studios giving into intimidation.

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