The FBI today accused North Korea of being behind the cyberattack that prompted Sony Pictures to cancel the release of “The Interview,” a development raising fears among entertainers that the free speech rights of Americans are threatened.
“As a result of our investigation, and in close cooperation with other U.S. government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” according to an FBI statement.
Before the statement was issued, actor George Clooney said he and his agent circulated a petition in support of Sony after it became the victim of a the cyberattack and before it cancelled the Christmas Day release of “The Interview,” but none of the many entertainment figures who were asked to sign it agreed to do so.
Speaking to Deadline Hollywood in an interview published online, Clooney said the way his petition was received shows how scared the industry has become.
“This is just where we are right now, how scared this industry has been made,” Clooney said in a ‘Deadline Hollywood interview published online. “Quite honestly, this would happen in any industry.”
The thrust of the petition circulated by Clooney and his agent, Bryan Lourd, was “we’re not going to give in to a ransom,” Clooney said.
The petition said in part:
“… We fully support Sony’s decision not to submit to these hackers’ demands. We know that to give in to these criminals now will open the door for any group that would threaten freedom of expression, privacy and personal liberty. We hope these hackers are brought to justice but until they are, we will not stand in fear. We will stand together.”
As have other celebrities, Clooney said the news media focused inordinately on the embarrassing emails the hackers uncovered, including from Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal, instead of the threats to American freedoms.
“A good portion of the press abdicated its real duty. They played the fiddle while Rome burned. There was a real story going on. With just a little bit of work, you could have found out that it wasn’t just probably North Korea; it was North Korea,” he said.
The FBI, in effectively confirming Clooney’s assertion, said it found telltale signs in the cyberattack.
“The FBI has determined that the intrusion into (Sony Pictures Entertainment’s) network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information, as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications …” the FBI statement said.
“Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed.”