SONY Pictures Entertainment’s cyber attack last week may be the beginning of targeting many more U.S companies in the future. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) released a five-page document advising corporations how to detect the malware. The department asked corporations to inform the institution if they find evidence of an attack. Only a few companies received the confidential document. They were asked to keep the report private.
The malware makes it difficult for programs to download by overriding data on hard drives. This stops computers from rebooting. Data lost after an attack is almost impossible to recover. The attack obstructed email operations at SONY, and also impacted systems that the company will need to use in releasing movies this season.
The FBI has teamed up with the Department of Homeland Security to find the culprits. According to an article in Bidness ETC, a group called “Guardians of Peace,” or #GOP, claimed responsibility for the malware attack.
The group said they were in possession of SONY’s film production schedule. The group posted on the internet five movies that the movie production company has invested in, among them Annie’s World, which SONY was planning to release in theaters in December. Excipio reported that there were more than 200,000 illegal downloads of the film by November 30. Film analysts say SONY’s profits on this investment will be negatively impacted when the movie is screened at the theaters.
The hackers also posted personal information of SONY’s employees on the internet. Michael Linton and Amy Pascal, officials of the movie production company, sent a memo to employees acknowledging that the cyber attack had taken place. They advised the staff to keep their personal information safe.
Computers attacked by malware require their hard drives to be re-imaged or manually replaced. When the hackers intruded on Saudi Aramco oil production company, more than 30,000 computers were affected.
Re/code, a technology news website, reported that SONY suspects the culprits are from North Korea. They are alleged to have invaded SONY’s computer systems as revenge for the company’s sponsorship of the film “The Interview.” The plot centers around two journalists sent by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The film is to be released in theaters in Canada and the U.S on December 25. The government of North Korea expressed its disappointment in the artistic venture to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, stating that the film was a declaration of war against the country.
According to USA Today, hackers from Iran have gained access to computer networks for transportation and infrastructure companies, major energy companies, U.S government agencies, as well as several corporations in 15 countries. The attack at SONY may be the beginning of more targeting of many U.S companies in the future. According to Cylance, a company that deals on cyber security based in Irvine, CA, sensitive information has been stolen from more than 50 corporations from all over the world. Ten of the companies are based in the United States. The firm reported that the possibility of hackers causing considerable harm on a national or international level is growing rapidly.
According to a study conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), companies lost billions of dollars due to cyber crime. Some corporations normally keep the exact figures confidential in order to keep stocks up. In some cases, corporations are not aware of the exact amount of loss in terms of intellectual property. The study indicated that it is difficult to quantify losses resulting from economic espionage where hackers can access a company’s research details, production plans, and customer information without victims knowing.
If this week’s cyber attack at SONY is the beginning of more targeting of U.S companies, it means many corporations will need to be prepared to spend more on security. The CSIS study indicated that companies commit approximately 7 percent of their Information Technology budgets to keep off hackers. The study estimated that the national loss to cyber crime and espionage costs the United States between $25 billion to as much as $140 billion annually.
By Benedicto Ateku