Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Wednesday called the recent cyberattack against Sony Pictures the “most serious” ever executed against U.S. interests, and reasserted the government’s claim that the government of North Korea was responsible.
During a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University in New York, Clapper told the crowd that Pyongyang sponsored the massive November intrusion into Sony servers, theft of some 100 terabytes of data, and leak of thousands of employees’ personal information, executives’ emails and several unreleased films.
Days after the attack, the hackers threatened 9/11-style terrorist attacks against thousands of U.S. theaters screening the Dec. 25 debut of “The Interview” — a comedy based around a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un — forcing Sony to limit the theatrical release and publish the film online. (RELATED: Sony Hackers Threaten To Attack CNN, Demand Outlet Turn Over Wolf Blitzer)
“They are deadly serious about affronts to the Supreme Leader,” Clapper said of the Pyongyang government. “They will keep doing it again and again until we push back.”
Clapper said he watched the film, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as bumbling reporters tasked by the CIA with taking out Jong-un, over the weekend.
“It’s obvious to me the North Koreans don’t have a sense of humor,” Clapper said according to ABC News.
Clapper’s Wednesday comments reaffirm the U.S. government’s accusation against North Korea despite mounting evidence from the private cybersecurity industry pointing away from Pyongyang, and instead toward a small group of hacker/activists along with a Sony insider. (RELATED: Cybersecurity Firm Identifies Six In Sony Hack — One A Former Company Insider)
“We have to push back,” Clapper said, stressing the importance of U.S. retaliation. “If they get global recognition with no consequence they’ll do it again and again.”
Clapper also recalled a dinner he had last year with North Korean Gen. Kim Youn Chol in Pyongyang, where Clapper was picking up two American prisoners, and where the director and the general got into a heated debate about what Chol described as U.S. and South Korean aggression against North Korea.
“Kim was a four-star general in charge of the Reconnaissance General Bureau. The RGB is the organization responsible with overseeing the attack against Sony,” Clapper said. “Cyber is a powerful new realm for them. They can get recognition for their cyber capabilities” cheaply.