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US: N. Korea behind Sony hack

Posted by pakin On December - 18 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

WASHINGTON — Federal investigators have now connected the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. to North Korea, a US official said Wednesday, though it remained unclear how the federal government would respond to a break-in that exposed sensitive documents and ultimately led to terrorist threats against moviegoers.

The official, who said a more formal statement could come in the near future, spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to openly discuss an on-going criminal case.

Until Wednesday, the Obama administration had been saying it was not immediately clear who might have been responsible for the computer break-in. North Korea has publicly denied it was involved.

The unidentified hackers had demanded that Sony cancel its upcoming release of the movie The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that included a gruesome scene depicting the assassination of North Korea’s leader. Sony on Wednesday cancelled the Dec. 25 release, citing the threats of violence against movie theatres, and the movie studio later said there were no further plans to release the film.

The disclosure about North Korea’s involvement came just after Sony hired FireEye Inc.’s Mandiant forensics unit, which last year published a landmark report with evidence accusing a Chinese Army organization, Unit 61398, of hacking into more than 140 companies over the years. Tracing the origins of hacker break-ins and identities of those responsible is exceedingly difficult and often involves surmise and circumstantial evidence, but Mandiant’s work on its highly regarded China investigation provides some clues to its methods.

Investigators will disassemble any hacking tools left behind at the crime scene and – similar to bomb detectives – scour them for unique characteristics that might identify who built or deployed them. Hints about origin might include a tool’s programming code, how or when it was activated and where in the world it transmitted any stolen materials.

In some cases, investigators will trace break-ins by hackers to “command and control” computers or web servers, and logs in those machines or information in Internet registration records might provide further clues about who is behind the hack. Sometimes, hackers using aliases are identified on social media networks or in chat rooms discussing targets or techniques. Mandiant named three Chinese Army hackers, including one known as “Ugly Gorilla.”

The most sophisticated tools or specialized techniques are generally attributed to the work of governments – such as the US role in releasing a tool known as Stuxnet to cripple Iran’s nuclear program – because it can be expensive and time-consuming for experts to build them. But governments wouldn’t use their most sophisticated tools against unsophisticated targets, because of the risk that valuable tools would be discovered and rendered useless for future attacks.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the US government was preparing to respond. The White House did not comment about the reported connection to North Korea and there was no immediate response from the State Department.

In May, the Justice Department took the highly unusual step of announcing indictments against five Chinese military officials accused of vast cyber espionage against major American corporations. But months later, none of those defendants have been prosecuted in the United States, illustrating the challenge of using the American criminal justice system against cybercriminals operating in foreign countries.

(CNN) — North and South Korean artillery batteries exchanged hundreds of shells across their western sea border Monday, a day after North Korea warned it was preparing to test another nuclear device.

About 100 of the 500 shells North Korea fired into the Yellow Sea strayed across the line separating the two rivals’ territorial waters, the semiofficial South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. Yonhap quoted the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff as saying the South responded by firing about 300 shells into North Korean waters and dispatching fighter jets to the boundary, known as the Northern Limit Line.

North Korean offshore firing appeared to have resumed after a lull, Yonhap reported, citing a resident of Baekryong Island, which is close to the Northern Limit Line.

“Some (North Korean) artillery fire landed in (the) southern part of Northern Limit Line but in the water,” a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesman said. “We counter-fired over the Northern Limit Line.”

When asked what South Korea fired back at, the defense spokesman said, “We are not shooting at North Korea, just shooting into the sea.”

The United States, South Korea’s leading ally, condemned the North Korean shelling from the White House and the Pentagon.

Washington is working “in close coordination” with South Korea and Japan, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, calling on North Korea “to refrain from actions that threaten regional peace and security.”

And Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon, “The provocation that the North Koreans have, once again, engaged in is dangerous, and it needs to stop.”

China, the North’s main patron, also expressed concern.

“The temperature is rising at present on the Korean Peninsula, and this worries us,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing. “We hope that all sides can remain calm and exercise restraint.”

Warning fax

The normally reclusive North took the unusual step of informing its neighbor of live-fire drills close in the heavily militarized western sea. Pyongyang sent a fax early Monday demanding that the South “control” its vessels in seven areas of the waterway near the Northern Limit Line.

According to Wee Yong-Sub, a vice spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, the scheduled tests mark the first time — in recent history, at least — that the North has announced live-firing exercises above the maritime border.

“We consider such announcement as a hostile threat and so have activated crisis management operation in case of (military) provocation,” he said. “We stress that we are fully prepared for all situations.”

Victor Cha, a leading Korea analyst, told CNN that the North may be “posturing” for attention in hopes bringing Washington back to talks over its nuclear program — or moving while the United States distracted by other global events.

“They could be learning from Crimea that while the United States is distracted, the North Koreans can try to change the playing field and maybe slant it in their direction by pushing it back to talks while the United States is focused on other issues,” Cha said.

The two Koreans never signed a peace agreement after the 1950-53 war that also pitted the United States and China against each other. Cha called it a “clearly a good thing” that Pyongyang notified the South of its military exercise. But if Northern gunners ended up killing someone across the border, “then we’re in a pretty bad situation.”

“They are on a hair trigger, and because of the array of forces on the peninsula, you can get an action-reaction dynamic that escalates fairly quickly,” he said. “That’s something we want to avoid, of course.”

Nuclear tests

North Korea said Sunday that it “would not rule out” a new nuclear test as it defended its recent mid-range missile launch that triggered international condemnation.

“(We) would not rule out a new form of a nuclear test aimed at strengthening our nuclear deterrence,” Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency. “The U.S. had better ponder over this and stop acting rashly.”

The statement did not specify what North Korea meant by a “new form” of test, and Wee said there are no immediate signs of nuclear tests being carried out by the North.

Last week, Pyongyang launched two medium-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, violating United Nations resolutions that prohibit Pyongyang from conducting such tests. The Security Council condemned the move and is considering an “appropriate response,” said Luxembourg Ambassador Sylvie Lucas, the council’s current president.

The military exercises are the latest provocation by the North and come after a maritime dispute last week was seemingly swiftly resolved. On Thursday, a North Korean fishing boat was seized after an alleged incursion into South Korean waters and returned with its three crew members the following day.

And while North Korea often upsets its neighbors by firing various rockets and missiles into the waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula, the country has at times engaged in more deadly military actions.

A multinational 2010 report indicated that the sinking of the South Korean navy warship Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors in the Yellow Sea, was the result of a a North Korean torpedo. Later that year, North Korean artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea killed two South Korean marines in what Yonhap called “the first direct artillery attack on South Korean territory since the Korean War ended in an armistice” in 1953.

(CNN) — North Korea fired 30 short-range rockets into the sea off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula early Saturday, a South Korean defense ministry official said.

The rockets have an estimated range of 60 km (37 miles), according to the ministry.

North Korean officials did not send out a navigational warning to ships before the apparent test, the official said.

It marks the fourth known rocket test by Pyongyang this month. The country fired 25 short-range rockets into the water earlier this week.

The launches have drawn criticism from South Korea and the United States as provocations by the North.

The U.S. and South Korea have been conducting a joint annual military drill since February, and North Korea has said its missile tests are a justifiable defensive reaction to them.

China backs North Korea on human rights

Posted by Nuttapon_S On March - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

China has dismissed a UN report that compared human rights abuses in North Korea to those in Nazi Germany.

A Chinese diplomat said the report lacked credibility, adding to fears that Beijing will block further action. He said some of the recommendations were divorced from reality.

North Korea called the report – which details murder, torture and starvation – a fabrication by hostile forces.

It was drawn up by UN-appointed jurists to document abuses in North Korea.

The head of the international panel of inquiry, Michael Kirby, told the council that great nations had had the courage to tackle the crimes of Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and apartheid South Africa.

He said they must now act on North Korea.

The report accused the state of systematic murder, torture, enslavement and starvation on a scale unparalleled in the modern world.

China had already indicated that it would not back the report.

The Chinese diplomat, Chen Chuandong, has now gone further by questioning the credibility of the report and making it all but certain that Beijing was prepared to veto any resolution at the Security Council.

“The inability of the commission to get support and co-operation from the country concerned made it impossible for the commission to carry out its mandate in an impartial, objective and effective manner,” he said.

The panel was not allowed to enter North Korea or talk to North Korean officials. It based its findings on the testimony of North Korean refugees and defectors, some of whom gave their evidence in public hearings in the South Korean capital, Seoul, and other cities.

China maintains that public censure is not the way to tackle human rights issues in North Korea.

It has recommended what it calls constructive dialogue with the government in Pyongyang.

North Korea has condemned the report as a political attack orchestrated by the United States and its allies with the aim of bringing down the regime.

The European Union and Japan, with US backing, sponsored the proposal to investigate North Korean abuses.

They want it to be submitted to the security council for a referral to the international criminal court or another body able to hold the North Korean leaders to account.

The resolution is expected to meet significant opposition in Geneva, where Cuba, Russia and Vietnam sit on the Human Rights Council as well as China.

Testimony given to the panel from defectors included an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby, children imprisoned from birth and starved, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera.

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