The North Korean operatives who hacked Sony over a comedy film are living large — while rest of the country has no internet access and scare necessities for survival.
The media has been buzzing over the international incident which prompted Sony to cancel the release of its comedic film, “The Interview” due to threats made by North Korean operatives. The group hacked into Sony servers and seized sensitive and valuable data, including private employee files and other confidential information. While this cyber extortion story has the plot, characters and international intrigue to be a movie itself, there is a surprising sub-story that has been mainly overlooked.
It is well-known that North Korea’s dictatorial leader Kim Jong-un lives a life of extreme excess and opulence while most of the nation’s population live lives of scarcity and hardship. What is not known is that the North Korean military has been secretly building a sophisticated cyber-weapons division since 1988. While many North Koreans reportedly don’t even know the internet exists, the special military cyber force has secretly grown rapidly in both size and capacity.
US Intelligence analyst Steve Sin reports that military brass routinely hand-pick the best math and science students at very young ages and guarantee them modern housing in Pyongyang as well food subsidies for their families. These elite students are then trained specifically for cyber operations to protect the isolated regime from the rest of the world. The North Korean hackers reportedly operate out of a luxury hotel in Shenyang, China while their countrymen live in extreme poverty.
The hacking group known as Guardians of Peace, or Unit 121, stole approximately 100 terabytes of information from Sony servers and have been leaking sensitive data including company salaries and emails. The hacker group further flexed its muscles by threatening the corporations that own movie theater chains resulting in the cancellation of the planned Christmas day premier of “The Interview,” that includes a scene in which Kim Jong-un dies in an explosion after a missile hits the helicopter he is hanging on to.
A spokesman for Sony Pictures Entertainment said the studio was “deeply saddened” that the movie will not be released on Christmas day as planned and added:
We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.
President Obama has promised retaliation in equal measure to the attack. Maybe the US should air drop handheld devices (iPods on mini parachutes) with free satellite internet connections to rural and impoverished sections of the country. That would raise some eyebrows and likely lead to the downfall of Kim Jong-un and his oppressive regime.
Watch a short video about North Korea’s Secret Unit 121 below.