US seeks China's help to curb North Korea cyber-attack – BBC News

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visiting the Kim Jong-Suk Pyongyang Textile Mill in Pyongyang.North Korea strongly objects to the film’s portrayal of its leader

The US has asked China to curb North Korea’s cyber-attacks after the hacking of Sony Pictures, officials say.

There is no response from Beijing – North Korea’s main ally. North Korea’s communications run through China. Pyongyang denies the attack on Sony.

President Barack Obama has called it an act of cyber-vandalism and says the US is considering returning North Korea to its list of terrorism sponsors.

The movie, The Interview, includes plans to kill a fictional Kim Jong-Un.

After the attack and threats, Sony cancelled the Christmas Day release of the film.

Responding to anonymous threats against cinemas, Sony said it was considering releasing it “on a different platform”.

It is not clear what China’s response to the US approach will be, correspondents say. China has previously denied US accusations that it engages in hacking into US companies. Beijing insists it is a victim of hacking, not a perpetrator.

In May, the US charged five Chinese army officers with hacking into American companies to try to gain competitive advantage, in the first cyber-espionage case of its kind.

In June, US authorities also charged a Chinese businessman with hacking into the computer systems of Boeing and other firms with large defence contracts.

A poster for The Interview in Venice, California, 19 DecemberThe film had been due to open during the holiday season

‘Compensate Sony’

The FBI said on Friday that North Korea had carried out last month’s cyber-attack, in which script details and private emails were leaked.

The US defended its findings on Saturday, with US National Security spokesman Mark Stroh saying: “We are confident the North Korean government is responsible for this destructive attack.”

“If the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused,” he said.

Sony HQ in CaliforniaThe cyber-attack has left Sony Pictures reeling from a massive leak of information

The Interview saga

  • 22 November: Sony computer systems hacked, exposing embarrassing emails and personal details about stars
  • 7 December: North Korea denies accusations that it is behind the cyber-attack, but praises it as a “righteous deed”
  • 16 December: “Guardians of Peace” hacker group threatens 9/11-type attack on cinemas showing film; New York premiere cancelled
  • 17 December: Leading US cinema groups say they will not screen film; Sony cancels Christmas-day release
  • 19 December: FBI concludes North Korea orchestrated hack; President Obama calls Sony cancellation “a mistake”
  • 20 December: North Korea proposes join inquiry with US into hacks, rejected by the US.

In an interview with CNN to be aired on Sunday, President Obama said he did not think it was “an act of war”.

“I think it was an act of cyber-vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately.”

The US announced it had taken North Korea off its list of state sponsors of terrorism in October 2008, after North Korea agreed to full verification of its nuclear sites.

Mr Obama told CNN’s State of the Nation programme that he would wait for the findings of a US review before deciding whether to reinsert North Korea’s name on the list.

The Interview features James Franco and Seth Rogen as two journalists who are granted an audience with Mr Kim. The CIA then enlists the pair to assassinate him.

The film’s cancelled release drew criticism in Hollywood, with some calling it an attack on the freedom of expression.

Sony says it made the decision after most US cinemas chose not to screen the film, following the threats.

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