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Sony Pictures is working to rebuild itself following a nasty cyberattack and subsequent data breach, courtesy of the Guardians of Peace. As such, the company has chosen cybersecurity firm FireEye's Mandiant to help clean up the mess - and FireEye likely couldn't be any happier with its decision.
Following the news, FireEye's stock value has increased, because of the high-profile nature of the data breach - and the fact that Sony Pictures could have chosen a few other large, high-profile firms. On the first day of news Mandiant was chosen, FireEye's shares increased 4.8 percent up to $32.39, and should continue to receive additional stability.
Here is what The Street Ratings recently offered: "We rate FireEye a SELL. This is driven by some concerns, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its feeble growth in its earnings per share and deteriorating net income."
The Anonymous hacker collective has criticized Sony Pictures for bowing down to the Guardians of Peace hacker group - and while Sony weighs its options to release "The Interview" - it appears Anonymous might be willing to do it for the company.
Anonymous released the following message (via Twitter): "You're gonna let Kim Junk Uno and his minions boss you, a multimillion dollar corporation responsible for billions of dollars in revenue? We're not with either side, we just want to watch the movie too... and soon you too will be joining us. Sorry, @sonypictures."
The hacker group also mentioned that it previously breached Sony Pictures' networks, and were surprised the company didn't work to improve its cybersecurity defenses.
The Chinese government, which has been blamed for organizing cyberattacks against foreign interests, spoke out against the cyberattack that crippled Sony Pictures. However, the country didn't specifically call out North Korea for its likely role in the breach, which stemmed because of the government's disdain for "The Interview."
"(China) opposes any country or individual using other countries' domestic facilities to conduct cyberattacks on third-party nations," according to a statement issued by Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, when speaking to US Secretary of State John Kerry.
North Korea and China have a strong political friendship - as one of Kim Jong Un's only foreign allies - and would be an important asset for any future cyberattacks. Pres. Obama's administration is weighing potential options to retaliate against North Korea, though China would likely strongly condemn any future actions.
President Obama has said the United States will respond "proportionately" against North Korea for its role in attacking Sony Pictures, but said the country is not engaged in a cyberwar against North Korea. Instead, the US may reintroduce North Korea to a list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorism, and will look for other methods to retaliate against the reclusive country.
"I don't think it was an act of war," Obama recently said on CNN's State of the Union. I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately, as I said. We've got very clear criteria as to what it means for a state to sponsor terrorism. And we don't make those judgments just based on the news of the day. We look systematically at what's been done and based on those facts, we'll make those determinations in the future."
There aren't many things the United States can do to attack North Korea with cyberattacks, as the US has much more to lose in an ongoing battle - and the US is more interested in trying to create generational change to help better the North Korean people, rather than directly fight with the government.
Office retailer Staples recently issued an update to a data breach investigation that took place earlier in the year, targeting its retail point-of-sale (PoS) systems. The company said 115 of its stores nationwide were targeted, with 1.16 million customers affected, providing cybercriminals potential "access to some transaction data at affected stores, including cardholder names, payment card numbers, expiration dates, and card verification codes."
Retailers remain under fire from foreign cybercriminals targeting their PoS systems - and the problem likely won't suddenly go away anytime soon. Despite Staples' data breach much smaller than Target (40 million compromised) and Home Depot (56 million compromised), shows that major problems still exist.
The North Korean government has reportedly orchestrated a major cyberattack to cripple Sony Pictures - and prevent "The Interview" from being shared - but the regular North Korean citizen likely has no idea about the data breach or movie. The North Korean government strictly regulates the Internet and media in the country, so it wouldn't be surprising if the population has no knowledge of the movie, or its contents.
"North Koreans will probably never know what this film was about," noted Leonid Petrov, from the Australian National University, as noted by BusinessWeek. "If there was a film about Kim Jong Un, it would only be explained in the most laudatory, sycophantic way. Foreigners made a film about our great leader, presenting the greatness of the great leader."
As such, trying to even get copies of the movie would be extremely difficult. There have been attempts to send balloons into North Korea with copies of movies, books and other banned materials into the country - but the balloons are routinely shot down. North Korean citizens who stumble across any of the contraband is ordered to turn it over, or they face potential torture, imprisonment, and other forms of punishment.
The United States pointed towards North Korea being behind the massive Sony Pictures data breach, and many have argued for some type of retaliation against the country. However, trying to determine how to seek revenge on the North Korean government, in regards to cyberattacks, remains difficult. Trying a cyberattack in response would be risky, as the US has significantly more to lose if the North Koreans, along with its allies, decide to escalate the issue further.
"Nothing more," said Christopher Budd, online security communications professional, in a post published by GeekWire. "Yes, you read that right: nothing more. I believe that the U.S. should do nothing more in response to this situation than they already have: naming North Kore clearly as being behind this."
It seems more likely the US government will impose further sanctions on North Korea - and perhaps find ways to hurt the country's economy even further. Another idea is to find a way to distribute "The Interview" inside of North Korea, along with distributing "Team America" into the country - but that seems rather far-fetched.
Cyber espionage is a growing underworld business, with small nation states and foreign terror groups continuing to launch cyberattacks against enemies, according to a report released by McAfee Labs. Everything from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to malware being delivered via social engineering techniques are being added to cyber arsenals, used by increasingly sophisticated groups.
Established nations with cyber warfare programs will look for stealthier methods to gather intelligence and cripple political and military rivals - and developing cyber espionage programs remain dedicated to stealing finances and causing disruptions.
"Of particular note, McAfee Labs now sees sophisticated Eastern European cybercriminals shifting from quick, direct attacks on financial-institution customer credentials (leading to financial theft) to a more sophisticated advanced persistent threat (APT) approach in which they collect intelligence that they can either sell or use at a later date," according to the McAfee report.
The decision by Sony Pictures Entertainment to pull "The Interview" due to a cyberattack and subsequent terror attacks has drawn criticism from actors and President Obama.
"Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage," Obama said during a press conference. "There were threats against its employees. I'm sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake. We cannot have a society in which some dictator in some place can start imposing censorship in the United States. I wish they'd spoken to me first. I would have told them: 'Do not get into the pattern in which you are intimidated.'"
However, Sony is defending itself from Pres. Obama's statement and criticism from actors, many American citizens, and others criticizing the company.
Cybercriminals with alleged ties to ISIS recently tried to spread malware onto a Syrian citizen media group after posing as Syrian-Canadian citizens, according to a report from Citizen Lab. The social engineering attack took place in late November, and shows the group is continually putting more effort into its cybercriminal abilities. The attempted malware attack was targeted to the Raqqah is Being Slaughtered Silently (RSS) group, and the email was worded in a manner to trick organization members.
"This bears little resemblance to anything we've seen from the usual suspects," said John Scott-Railton, the report's co-author, noted in a statement given to CBC. "That, combined with who they are targeting... gives us pause and makes us think that maybe we're looking at ISIS malware."
ISIS has used the Internet, specifically social media, as a tool to recruit and spread propaganda. However, the group has run into problems, as the Anonymous hacker collective and other groups have disrupted their online operations.