You can watch CYBERWAR's Sony hack episode on SBS VICELAND tonight at 7:00 PM.
On November 24, 2014, an ominous message appeared on all the computers of the employees of Sony Pictures Entertainment in California. "Hacked by #GOP," read the title of the message, which had a red skeleton in the background.
The message was a threat to release internal company data if Sony didn't "obey" the hackers' request. The threat came just before all that data got wiped and destroyed from Sony's systems.
In the following days, the hackers followed through on the threat and released a treasure trove of embarrassing emails, contracts, unreleased scripts, employee's private data, and even full unreleased movies.
But that was only the beginning. Soon, media started speculating that the hackers' real motive was to disrupt the release of the upcoming James Franco and Seth Rogen movie, The Interview, which featured an improbable CIA plot to send a TV host and his assistant into North Korea to kill the country's dictator Kim Jong-un. Days later, the FBI and the White House officially pointed the finger at the North Korean regime as the culprits of the hack—the first time the US government publicly accuses a country of a cyberattack.
Even two years later, this sequence of events makes little sense, and seems more like the plot of an unlikely Hollywood thriller, or a Mr. Robot episode perhaps. Yet, it was all real. But even two years later, there's still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the hack, and there's still some who don't believe North Korea was really behind the hack.
The main argument from skeptics is that the FBI never published conclusive evidence linking North Korea to the attack, and the little data that has come out could have been faked by other hackers trying to blame North Korea. Moreover, just a few days before the hack, the hackers sent an email to some Sony's executives, asking for a ransom. That email did not mention The Interview at all.
As part of SBS VICELAND's series CYBERWAR, VICE Canada's reporter Ben Makuch talked to several security experts to figure out what really happened, and who was really responsible. Despite the FBI's public finger pointing, the bureau's cyber division section chief Brett Leatherman, says in the doc that the investigation into the hack is still "ongoing."