Sony Pictures Investigating AttackHacker Group Claims to Have Obtained Internal Data
Sony Pictures says it is "investigating an IT matter" following news reports that the company has been hit by a widespread cyber-attack that affected employees' computers and may have exposed sensitive data.
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A hacker group calling itself #GOP has allegedly breached the computers of the movie studio, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "We've obtained all your internal data including your secrets and top secrets," the group said, threatening to post the details online, according to the report.
A spokesperson for the company didn't provide many details about the incident to various media outlets, except to say it was looking into the matter. An e-mail request to the company during the afternoon of Nov. 25 returned the following message: "Our e-mail system is currently experiencing a disruption. Please contact the person you wish to reach via office or mobile phone."
The latest news follows an April 2011 incident in which Sony confirmed that hackers had attacked its PlayStation Network, exposing names, addresses, dates of birth and account passwords for 77 million customers. In June, the company agreed to settle a class action lawsuit stemming from that breach (see: Sony Settles Data Breach Lawsuit).
Sony in August also experienced a "large scale" distributed-denial-of-service attack to its PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network sites (see: DDoS Gang Targets Sony).
Assessing the Attack
Multiple cyber-attacks against Sony don't come as a surprise from a technical perspective, says Tyler Shields, a security analyst at Forrester Research. "It's very difficult to fully eradicate an attacker once compromise has occurred," he says. "That being said, this may or may not be affiliated with the previous attacks of Sony; it's impossible to tell for sure."
From a defense perspective, it's difficult for organizations to defend against targeted attacks such as this because it's an "asymmetrical war," Shields says. "The attacker has the luxury of time. They can take as long as necessary and only need to find one crack in the armor of the target."
Organizations, on the other hand, have to be constantly vigilant, says Neal O'Farrell, executive director of the Identity Theft Council. "[They have to] guard multiple and often innumerable perimeters and entry points," he says. "The attackers only have to catch you off guard once."
Based on the details provided in news reports, the attack may have compromised Sony's computing infrastructure, Shields says. "This has the potential to significantly damage Sony."