back to article SONY HACK WAS WAR says FBI, and 'we're still struggling to hire talent'

Yesteryear's hack of Sony Pictures was an act of war, stated FBI Supervisory Special Agent Timothy Wallach, who delivered the FBI's gradation system of cybercriminals to net security conference Cloudsec on Thursday, 17 September. US agencies have fingered the North Korean government for the Sony attack repeatedly, initially to …

  1. The_Idiot


    So causing problems for a movie studio/ games company/ technology company is an 'act of war'

    Not industrial activism.

    Not industrial espionage.

    Not political activism.

    Not a response to (locally) perceived significant insults to a Head of State, however well or ill that Head of State may be viewed in general (I'm led to wonder if what the Dixie Chicks suffered after Natalie Maines made a much less significant comment about George W was 'an act of war' as well).

    No. None of those.


    War is kind of a Big Deal. Or if it isn't, it should be. Even to the FBI. Or at least that's my view. Of course, I'm an Idiot...

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: War.

      If Kim Jong-eun was not the head of North Korea but the head of a triad and had retaliated with his criminal buddies, we'd call it criminal act. If he was head of a neo-Nazi group we might, at a stretch, call it political activism. If he was the head of a rival corporation, it could be considered "industrial activism". (Frankly, I'd still call it a criminal act.) And if Kim Jong-eun had launched his one nuke at Sony City, we'd've definitely called it an act of war. I'm not a fan of the hyperbole and am sounding horribly right wing, but when a state acts aggressively outside its borders, it's pretty much an act of war.

      That sad, any of these actors could be said to be (cyber-)terrorists perpetrating an act of terrorism: the intent was to make people scared of criticising Kim Jong-eun.

      1. The_Idiot

        Re: War.

        @Brewster's Angle Grinder

        With genuine and sincere respect - in which case, by the same logic, every known or unknown act by the US to access, gather or modify foreign industrial (as opposed to but also including foreign government) systems or data is also an 'act of war'?

        By this logic, we either have to assume the US does not carryout such acts, or that they also are carrying out acts of war against a range of people including European 'partners'.

        Please note - I'm not saying that to justify, defend, attack or deny any such action. Only extending the logic, if this is what we are supposed to accept as an 'act of war'.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: War.

          Therein lies the rub. I'm very much a purist in these thing, casus belli is no joking matter when large calibre weapons are involved, and the US government has a very nasty track record ranging back to even before that political entity existed. We certainly aren't alone but damn. So, yes, Kim Jong-Un did commit an Act of War either through direct action or state-sponsored terrorism, in no less a way that the NSA and our cohorts of TLA's.

          What to do about it was well beyond my pay grade unless it became one of those nuts on the cutting board situations. Those? There were/are no good answers so I'd almost certainly just say " fuck it." [Which is likely why are considered Cowboys.]

          1. The_Idiot

            Re: War.

            @Jack of Shadows

            And that, sadly, takes us right back to one of the oldest hypocrisies of all - 'it's really, really evil when THEY do it. But it's OK when WE do it - because it's 'different'.'

            If it's OK for the US to commit casual 'acts of war' of this type - then it's OK for anyone else to, against the US. If it's a Really Bad Thing for others to do against the US, it's a Really Bad Thing for the US to do to others. But Somehow, I don't think that's how the FBI would put it...


      2. a_yank_lurker

        Re: War.

        Really?? The target of the hack is sleazy movie studio not a country. Wars are between countries. Sleazy movie studios are not military assets and are not military targets. Even if NORK did it, it would be because the el-sleazo studio was prompting a trashing film about assassinating Kim. FBI and other associated incompetents jumped on the supposed NORK angle early.

        The explanations for the hack are: NORK retaliation for a third rate movie, hacktivist attack, or a disgruntled insider. Retaliation for a third (being charitable) rate movie only gives the movie free advertising and probably a bigger box office than it deserved. Hactivists are possible but there seems to a major effort to humiliate the PHBs running Sony. A disgruntled (ex)insider is a strong possibility because the internal documents showed an organization that raised sleaziness to new lows.

        FBI comments are more likely attempts to justify criminalization of cyber-security to "protect the public". They are complaining about how text and email encryption makes it impossible to prosecute criminals; mostly because they are lazy incompetents.

    2. rtb61

      Re: War.

      I suppose it could be considered an act of war if main stream media companies own governments via, campaign contributions, offshore 'cough' 'cough' donations in tax havens, will drug parties and young 'er' extortion material to ensure control (this includes members of the British ig-nobility).

      Although likely that is starting to push into treason territory, so disrupting that should be considered an act of justice and not an act of war.

      No strict law enforcement department will ever be able to hire sufficient numbers, those privacy invasive psychopaths who would do the work simply want more money and do it for private corporations and people more skilled than them, much more skilled, simply want to enjoy life to much to be buried in policing agency.

      So what you do is expand communications and media control authorities to contain a computer forensics, investigation and laboratory division, still civilian of course and they provide the technical expertise for policing investigation under the control and authority of those policing departments. That way those policing departments get very skilled and very creative people and those skilled and creative people can remain contented pot heads (they will have the skill to get into tax haven information, with the assistance of properly trained field agents of course, oh my the people they could send to prison or in some countries put before a firing squad).

    3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      War is a Racket and Big Crooked Deal with Surely Surprising Unintended Consequences for Warmongers

      Is this why war is propagated by the intellectually challenged and serially unimaginative ........ War is a Racket

      And whenever systems'/nation's leaderships know of that, are they condemned and proven guilty of being complicit and accessories before and after the fact in the wilful and perverse destruction and death of societies? Are they terrorists to be appropriately dealt with, with more than just APT ACTive programming and virtual pogroms/zeroday vulnerability exploit expeditions/SMARTR AIMissions?

      And that was a nice unambiguous "War" post, The_Idiot. Bravo.

      1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

        Re: War is a Racket and Big Crooked Deal with...

        Bleh, network centric warfare tools were used, that isn't an act of war, it's the use of warfare tools against a corporation.

        No war will result, corporations haven't totally taken over the US government.

        Only mostly taken over the government.

    4. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Re: War.

      When the POTUS says it's an act of war or Congress declares it, I'll listen.

      When the FBI announces information/network warfare was used, it's a lot different.

      This was the tools of network centric war used against a corporation, interestingly, a Japanese corporation. There's still a bit of angst over some shenanigans conducted by Japan during WWII over in those parts.

      Meanwhile, North Korean network centric warfare types are trained by the PRC.

      The upside is, the PRC will reign in their misbehaving satellite nation, when the problems become noteworthy, with a minimum of chopping North Korea's internet access that is provided by the PRC.

      As for PRC units, an NDA prohibits discussion of that mess.

    5. rtb61

      Re: War.

      Seriously WTF? Google called email postcards, which any one in any stage of the data link can read by just flipping them over, hence no one had a right to expectations of privacy when google blatantly pries into, what it calls postcards

      So every ISP including the wholesalers can pry into and collate every email, so the reality is what they got from Sony's email servers is exactly what a whole bunch of players (keeping some secrets and making threats with others) did via the communications infrastructure, all those emails, which Google declared to be postcards and incidentally got away with it.

      FBI fucking call this an act of war, fuck the FBI, those mercenary bastards, trying to promote conflict, murder and mayhem (Fucking Bloody Idiots indeed and in word). If that is the case, why haven't the world government's declared war on google, why haven't the mass arrests occurred, where are the death penalties for googles mass act of war, massively prying into people's email (M$ and Yahoo also massively indulge in this apparent act of hostilities).

  2. Preston Munchensonton

    Dear FBI

    You are struggling to hire talent because we don't want to submit ourselves to your cyber-warfare overlords.

    Yours Truly,


    1. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: Dear FBI

      I had applied to them before, but was rejected because I didn't have a Bachelor's degree at the time. Then after I got my degree, I ended up rejecting for a couple reasons: They wanted me to move to Washington DC to work in the main HQ rather than the regional HQ two blocks from my apartment and on top of that, the pay was shit, especially compared to the cost of living of DC.

      I had also gotten an offer from another company in the city where I was living and with 50% more pay. After all was said and done, after bills were paid, I was getting twice as much per month.

    2. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Re: Dear FBI

      Sorry, but you can't afford me on a GS scale.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It wasn't war, Tim..

    It was burglary. Sony should fit better locks on their doors and windows.


  4. Ian 62

    Wonder why he used the Sony hack as an example? Rather than the MUCH closer to home hack of the OPM (office of personnel management).

    Or is that too much of a raw nerve to talk about yet?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Not so much "raw nerve" as "raw nerve centre".

      Oh my, your coat-stand is shaped like a neuron! Anyway, mine's the black trench coat with the mirror shades and the sawn-off shotgun in the pockets, ta.

    2. a_yank_lurker

      The OPM hack exposed how grossly incompetent the Feds are at security with a few very specific exceptions. Talking about it only encourages people to ask very, very, very embarrassing questions of their overlords aka bureaucrats.

  5. Alister

    Interesting scale he's developed, apparently all "hacking" is either politically motivated or crime related.

    I wonder where on the scale he would place Gary McKinnon, or even any of the thousands of script kiddies I can see knocking on my firewalls every day?

    Not all "hacking" has malicious intent.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Money, Ideology, Conscience, Ego. Lord knows there's a whole lot of the latter on the 'net. I have no clue why Espionage is its own category said earlier it plays to the FBI so new #1 mission as National Security. Depending on motivation it splits out into the four I cited above.

      Can't even say /pedantic as it's all ways true. ;-).

  6. auburnman

    If the West has warrants/bounties out for the arrest of Foreign Hackers, I wonder if Russia or China have shit-lists for our 'good-guy' hackers?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Alien Life Exists and Phorms Optioned Futures with Phished Hedged Derivative and Pwns [for] You .‽

      If the West has warrants/bounties out for the arrest of Foreign Hackers, I wonder if Russia or China have shit-lists for our 'good-guy' hackers? .... auburnman

      If you are a capitalising ace with a great media rich hack and proprietary western operating system code crack, are Russia and China prime friendly premium ports of exotic intellectual property and erotic virtual warefare call.

      And yes, it too is also an attractive active destination for enigmatic quantum command and sublime machine control communications in wares for virtual warfare. That deep and dark web space and alternative fun factory though, is not a mainstream market place.complex in which one simply works, rests and plays. One needs to be conversant and super enabled and able and APTly ACTive and practically anonymous in all manner of relative matters, which does have some tipping themselves over the edge in their flights and fights, and falling head over heels, out of real and remote virtual control and into the realms of madness and mayhem.

      Spread the word. Forewarned is forearmed and ignorance of those facts no longer a viable excuse for contrived conflicts and exploitable vulnerabilities created out of penny dreadful pulp pumping fictions and prime ministerial presidential daily briefings.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Existential Alien Life Terra-Phorming

        Oh, and ........

        Grand words wisely shared freely in Fields of Viral Control command Great IntelAIgent Gaming Worlds with Live Operational Virtual Environments in Global Operating Devices. AI and Black Watch Ventures in Deep and Dark Web Enterprises aspiring and conspiring to rule victorious and reign glorious in Novel Presentations and Applications with Remote CyberSpace Direction …. with a perfect enough anonymity relatively easily achieved and assured?

        And served here as a question for doubt to spread its stealthy magic and create an irregular and unconventional virtual reality to rival traditional contemporary media programming in the process.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is it when

    Someone drops a rootkit onto thousands of PCs?

    1. Zoopy

      Re: What is it when

      "What is it when

      Someone drops a rootkit onto thousands of PCs?"

      A slow day for the NSA?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The hack of Sony pictures, he suggested, was an act of warfare, though it remains unclear how it might be considered a military act of sabotage, other than its nation-state backing.

    Bollocks. Also, if you are going to consider this sort of thing an act of war, then Sony declared war on the entire planet first with their rootkit. So who's being held accountable for tat and are Sony executives afraid to go on holiday? The double standards here are leaving me fucking speechless.

  9. asdf

    stupid FBI

    >SONY HACK WAS WAR says FBI, and 'we're still struggling to hire talent'

    Could be because really good hackers in general don't want to wear suits and help the man spy on the general public and not the white collar criminals the FBI should be going after. As for defense the NSA and US government has show quite clearly they would rather hack other governments and even its own citizens than worry about protecting the US public and or even their own workers data.

    1. Bloakey1

      Re: stupid FBI


      " help the man"


      I remember him from the 70's. it was always the man what did it, any little one of life's niggles and it was the man what did it. I believe he was particularly intrusive in your life if you were non Caucasian.

      1. asdf

        Re: stupid FBI

        >I believe he was particularly intrusive in your life if you were non Caucasian.

        Or if you live in Irving Texas (and many other places) you can drop the past tense. Well the "good" news is perhaps the man will soon be Donald Trump lol and the turds can roll around in the fan. Still I was more talking like some 21 yo DEFCON kid instead of the middle age corporate whore I am.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: stupid FBI

        This is the basis of all the "more women in IT" bollocks... because someone somewhere thinks "the man" is too gender specific.

  10. Palpy

    In this case, "act of war" means whatever a propagandist wants.

    The FBI shill is just blowing smoke from his orifice. Just blabbing loudly. No missiles will be launched.

    With regards to a genuine casus belli related to hacking, Stuxnet was probably as close as anything to an attack on national resources by other national powers.

    The US military has had a curiously close relationship to Hollywood, though. Any motion picture which portrays the valor of US troops, the existential threat posed to the US by small Communist countries, or the need for ever-greater investment in military-industrial power, will get a green light to film on military bases, use military equipment as props, and probably even have a few blushing colonels appearing in bit parts.

    So perhaps the US government is a bit more solicitous toward Sony than it would be toward, say, Walmart.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In this case, "act of war" means whatever a propagandist wants.

      That's what happens when the Alice in Wonderland world becomes reality.

      'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean"... Alice didn't want to begin another argument, so she said nothing. .... 'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' she said in a thoughtful tone.

    2. a_yank_lurker

      Re: In this case, "act of war" means whatever a propagandist wants.

      Sounds a possible movie plot, going after a small Communist country - oh hell - that was done "Wag the Dog".

  11. Mark 85

    How the FBI can fix their "talent" problem.

    1) Pay the going pay rate for talented InfoSec people and not the Governments GS-X rates based on some beancounters view that "serving the country should be pay enough".

    2) Ensure that those that are hired or even just apply for the job have their personal data stored offline and securely.

    If I were at all interested in working for the Government, those 2 items would kill any interest I might have.

    1. Zoopy

      Re: How the FBI can fix their "talent" problem.

      I"d need yet another bullet point to work for the FBI:

      3) Add a 3000% "Do Evil" premium to base salary.

  12. Mark 85

    Rats... I missed point 3). Have one for me... Friday and all that.

  13. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The spectre of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. *:-) ...... or more for real, SMERSH in IT and Spectacular AI ‽ .

    Wallach, who has been with the agency for 19 years, noted that the FBI is still having difficulty recruiting talent. People who work for the FBI do so due to their belief in "the mission", he acknowledged.

    A Department of Justice report into the agency earlier this year found that recruits were discouraged by the invasive recruitment processes, and better private-sector salaries.

    A similar difficulty exists and grows in Blighty too, with the protection of corrupt and perverse politicians and extortionist banker systems administrators because of a failed and inept cuckold of an inequitable justice and criminal prosecution service, destroying any and all future belief in “the mission” being fair and reasonable and for the greater good.

    And it being fully widely recognised as being inherently bad, and as a cancerous growth on societies, is their, the global public sector’s intelligence and security services sector’s, worst nightmare realised, as future considerably smarter talent goes pirate and private to make things better and earn unbelievable and/or unheard of fortune, for of course, the considerably smarter ones would be ensuring they be securely perfectly anonymously protected from both real and virtual discovery and physical capture.

    Eventually, and who is to say not even now as the matter is being discussed here, the smarter ones will not be gainfully “employed” and leading the aforementioned compromised systems, to protect them from the systemic catastrophic vulnerabilities which exist to be ruthlessly exploited and exported.

    After all, such shenanigans are default establishment practice are they not, as is evidenced with Nazis to victorious allies in an earlier exercise of utilising greater talent with Operations Paperclip and Osoaviakhim

    *:-) Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion

  14. Mitoo Bobsworth


    The US of A, it's agencies therein, are now fabricating reasons to have a stoush with the Norks now. Why don't they just aim Donald Trump at them - one hour of his narcissistic bad-hair bullshit will have them on their knees.

    " We surrender - name your terms & conditions, just PLEEEAAASE make him shut up!"

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: So...

      Maybe the best reason to elect Trump. :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      For that matter, we (the people of the USA that hate our nation's politics) would say the same, "please, whatever it takes, just shut him up before he starts WW3!!!".

  15. Mikel

    The real Sony Hackers revealed

    Whenever somebody says they know for sure where a hack was based out of I just laugh. What they are announcing is their own ignorance, and their own vulnerability.

  16. xerocred

    Aren't these the same guys that redefined a weapon of mass destruction

    As having half an ounce of explosive?*

    Coming next, spoilt milk classed as biological weapon.

    *About the size of a medium firework.

  17. john 17

    Remember Sony's Root Kit?

    I have no sympathy for SONY.

    I remember when their music CDs contained a root kit.

    It also hid other viruses.

    Sony is not my friend and I refuse to purchase their products.

  18. Fkruger

    I've lost thousands to these fake hackers, please don't fall for any of them, it's taken me months to find a genuine hacker who will show you proof before payment. Thank you cyberwizard! you and your crew are the bomb ,the work you did on my spouse's accounts was simply phenomenal! and i aint talking about just facebook ;) turns out he shows you valid proof before payment. Hey if you ever need to get into your spouse's account, improve credit points, clear criminal records,tax, protection from spyware or simply have a score to settle or any other issues that need addressing, completely secure and fast!! contact by email..... wizcyber63 at gmail dot com and phone number on request....

  19. Fkruger

    I've lost thousands to these fake hackers, please don't fall for any of them, it's taken me months to find a genuine hacker who will show you proof before payment. Thank you cyberwizard! you and your crew are the bomb ,the work you did on my spouse's accounts was simply phenomenal! and i aint talking about just facebook ;) turns out he shows you valid proof before payment. Hey if you ever need to get into your spouse's account, improve credit points, clear criminal records,tax, protection from spyware or simply have a score to settle or any other issues that need addressing, completely secure and fast!! contact by email..... wizcyber63 at gmail dot com and phone number on request....

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