Washington tries to tackle hackers behind Sony attack

Thu Dec 18, 2014 8:02pm EST
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By David Brunnstrom and Piya Sinha-Roy

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) - Washington made the woes of cyberattack victim Sony Pictures its own on Thursday as the White House acknowledged that the devastating strike against the big Hollywood studio was a matter of national security that would be met by a forceful government response.

But the White House was not ready to put the blame on North Korea, despite a U.S. official's indication on Wednesday that Washington may soon formally announce the involvement of the Pyongyang government.

President Barack Obama was monitoring the cyberattack very closely, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. But even as the White House studied a "proportional response," experts warned that the effect of strategies like cyber retaliation or financial sanctions could be limited.

The attack more than three weeks ago by hackers identifying themselves as "Guardians of Peace" is the biggest hacking of a company on U.S. soil and might be repeated with other companies.

It brought down the computer network at Sony Pictures Entertainment, prompted the leak of embarrassing emails, and led to a film cancellation that many in Hollywood and Washington said was tantamount to caving in to the hackers.

Sony decided on Wednesday to scrap its big Christmas Day release of "The Interview," a comic film that culminates in the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a scene that was leaked on the Internet on Thursday.

Sony pulled the film after movie theater chains said they would not show the film citing security concerns after hackers made threats against cinemas and audiences.

A senior North Korean U.N. diplomat declined to comment on accusations that Pyongyang was responsible for the hacking attack on Sony Pictures.   Continued...

A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film "The Interview" in Los Angeles, California December 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian