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South Korea is under cyberattack from an unknown source, as its Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. has been breached, with "non-critical" data being stolen. The country's nuclear installations and atomic reactors aren't at risk, but cybersecurity experts remain highly concerned the country's nuclear reactors could be at risk from future attacks.
"This demonstrated that, if anyone is intent with malice to infiltrate the system, it would be impossible to say with confidence that such an effort would be blocked completely," said Suh Kune-yull, from the Seoul National University, in a statement to reporters. "And a compromise of nuclear reactors' safety pretty clearly means there is a gaping hole in national security."
As organized cyberattacks from foreign states continue to launch attacks, stealing data from utility providers and other critical infrastructure remains high on the list.
"We found continued activity from Chinese specific actors that have used the Afghan government infrastructure as an attack platform," said Rich Barger, ThreatConnect CIO, in a statement to Reuters.
As the United States and NATO slowly wind down operations in Afghanistan, it looks like China wants to step up and become more active in the volatile country. This isn't the first time Afghan ministry websites have been targeted, with malware found on justice, foreign affairs, commerce, industry and education ministry websites in the past.
North Korea is having Internet problems, as the country - which has limited and restricted Internet access - with problems dating back a few days, though the nation's infrastructure took a severe beating over the past few days.
"Their networks are under duress," said Doug Madory, Dyn Research Internet analysis director, in a published statement. "I haven't seen such a steady beat of routing instability and outages in KP before. Usually there are isolated blips, not continuous connectivity problems. I wouldn't be surprised if they are absorbing some sort of attack presently."
Internet access in North Korea typically is reserved for government and military users, and it's unknown who is behind the attack. Internet outages wouldn't impact normal citizens of the country, but could set a dangerous precedent if the United States is responsible for the attack.
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.