white house

Today we heard multiple reports that the US government is ready to place the blame for the Sony hack on North Korea. We're expecting an annoucnement as early as tomorrow.

We also learned on Wednesday that Sony has not only decided to pull the movie "The Interview" from its Christmas Day release, but that the company won't be releasing the movie anywhere anytime soon.

Seth Rogen and James Franco star in the movie as a pair of journalists who, under the guise of shooting a television interview, are tasked by the Central Intelligence Agency with killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 

North Korea has openly criticized the film and their anger is a likely tie to any connection with the attacks.

Today the White House's National Security Council came forward about the hack, and the recent information that's come to light:

“The U.S. government closely monitors all reports of breaches affecting U.S. companies, U.S. consumers, and U.S. infrastructure.  We know that criminals and foreign countries regularly seek to gain access to government and private sector networks – both in the United States and elsewhere. 

The U.S. government has offered Sony Pictures Entertainment support and assistance in response to the attack.  The FBI has the lead for the investigation. The United States is investigating attribution and will provide an update at the appropriate time.  The U.S. government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice, and we are considering a range of options in weighing a potential response.  

We are aware of Sony’s announcement regarding ‘The Interview.’  The United States respects artists' and entertainers' right to produce and distribute content of their choosing. The U.S. government has no involvement in such decisions.  We take very seriously any attempt to threaten or limit artists’ freedom of speech or of expression.”

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seth rogen james franco the interview

Sony Pictures has told Deadline it has "no further" release plans for "The Interview." That means no plans for a DVD release, video on demand release, or anything else.

Sony had already decided to scrap the movie's December 25 release in theaters, prompting some to suggest they should release it online.

On Tuesday the studio deferred to movie theaters over whether to show the movie because of threats of terrorism made by the same people claiming to have hacked Sony. 

SEE ALSO: Here's Why US Authorities Think North Korea Hacked Sony

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Will people buy smartwatches? What is it about smartwatches that interest them? 

A global survey BI Intelligence conducted among Business Insider readers during October 2014 illustrates what consumers are looking for in a smartwatch, and whether they intend to purchase one. We generated over 2,000 responses from Business Insider readers, who tend to be young, affluent professionals — ostensibly the target market for a smartwatch. 

For a full smartwatch survey data and analysis on the wearable computing and smartwatch markets, sign up for a trial membership today

Here are the main takeaways: 

  • The smartwatch only appeals to a minority of possible purchasers. Of 1,678 respondents who said they planned to buy a new phone in the next six months, just one-fifth said they are interested in buying a smartwatch to pair with their phone. 
  • Apple has done a better job than competitors selling the smartwatch. Prospective iPhone buyers were significantly more interested in a companion watch than likely Android purchasers. About 31% of those who said they would buy an iPhone in the next six months plan to buy a smartwatch, more than double the proportion among those buying Android phones. 
  • These are the top use cases among likely purchasers: Almost 40% of nearly 400 likely smartwatch buyers told us that the most important benefit of the device is its ability to funnel phone notifications, information, and other content if users happen to be away from their smartphone. Another one-fourth of our respondents said they already wear a watch and the added functionality of a connected watch appeals to them. Health- and fitness-tracking was another popular reason. 
  • But there is no killer app, and hence most people don't see the point. Overall a majority of people still don't see the point of these devices. This is the reason 51% of those uninterested in smartwatches gave us for why they wouldn't buy the device. At a distant second, 13% of respondents said they just didn't like wearing a watch. Until consumers see a clear reason why smartwatches will improve their lives and productivity, the smartwatch category will remain small.

Of course, the next six months could bring about new applications for smartwatches generally and the Apple Watch in particular, but the data shows that the smartwatch still has a long way to go before it is seen as an essential consumer electronics device. 

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vinod khosla court

On December 1, San Mateo County Court Judge Barbara Mallach issued a final order requiring Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla to immediately restore public access to Martin's Beach.

Still, the gate hasn't been opened, and now Khosla's lawyers are challenging the ruling.

Khosla owns a 53-acre parcel adjacent to the beach, which he purchased for $37.5 million in 2008. A few months after Khosla made the purchase, a gate leading from the Pacific Coast Highway down to the parking lot was locked, and signs forbidding entry were posted.

The Surfrider Foundation filed suit against Khosla in March of 2013. In September, Mallach ruled in favor of Surfrider, saying that Khosla was in violation of the California Coastal Act when he neglected to obtain a permit before posting signage and locking the gate. 

On Tuesday, Khosla's limited liability companies, Martins Beach 1 and Martins Beach 2, filed a motion to throw out Mallach's order to reopen access to the beach. Khosla is seeking a new trial, claiming "irregularity in the proceedings of the Court," "improper orders of the Court," "abuse of discretion by the Court," among other complaints. 

The filing also claims there is newly discovered evidence as well as an "accident or surprise, which ordinary prudence could not have been guarded against." 

Khosla's lawyers will have until December 26 to file a brief and provide evidence that supports their request for a new trial. 

"We look forward to continuing to fight for Surfrider and the people of California to protect everyone’s right to access the coast," said Eric Buescher, an attorney at Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy, who represents Surfrider in the lawsuit.

SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley Billionaire Is Ignoring A Judge's Order To Open The Beach He Blocked

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North Korea TankWe may never know if North Korea was behind the Sony hacks that ultimately led to the cancellation of the North Korea-mocking movie, “The Interview.” 

But one thing is for sure: Hollywood is not touching anything North Korea-related at the moment.

According to Deadline, New Regency has canceled a movie that was supposed to be directed by Gore Verbinski and have Steve Carell as the lead.

The untitled film apparently was a “paranoid thriller” written by Carell himself. But the producers deemed “it made no sense” to go on with its plan under the current circumstances, which led to the cancellation.

“The Interview,” a movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, was scheduled to open in theaters on Christmas Day. But after multiple hacks on Sony executive emails over the past month, and a terrorist threat to attack all theaters showing the movie on Wednesday, Sony decided to cancel the movie.

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Sony Pictures just decided to cancel the theatrical release of its new comedy "The Interview," which was scheduled for Dec. 25.

The comedy stars Seth Rogen and James Franco star in the movie as a pair of journalists who, under the guise of shooting a television interview, are tasked by the Central Intelligence Agency with killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Several major theatrical chains announced they were canceling all screenings of the film after the group claiming responsibility for the recent Sony hacks threatened acts of violence at locations screening the film.

Take a look at the trailer for the film at the center of all the controversy.

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seth rogen

US investigators reportedly believe hackers working for North Korea are responsible for a debilitating cyberattack against Sony Pictures which has damaged the studio's computer systems and resulted in it pulling one of its Christmas-day releases.

The incident is the most devastating cyberattack ever on a US-based company. And it now appears that the US is close to claiming that a state sponsor is behind the incident.

If North Korea really is involved, it may leave the US in the position of having to formulate some kind of a response to the breach.

America's leverage is minimal, as Dave Aitel, a former NSA research scientist and CEO of the cybersecurity firm Immunity, explained to Business Insider earlier this week. Many offensive options are problematic given "the technical complexities involved, legislative challenges, or the international escalation they will generate," Aitel said.

But the US could also respond by shifting its legal and diplomatic framework for how it approaches cyber-attacks.

One proactive move the US should consider, according to Aitel, is "declaring certain cyberattacks terrorist acts and the groups behind them terrorists," which would "set in motion a wider range of legal authority, US government/military resources, and international options."

The new legal framework "would also make it harder for hacker networks to operate in key international areas, as it would require a greater level of cooperation from US allies, EU members, NATO, G20, etc.," in addition to making it easier "for the US government to target the funding of not only the hacker networks, but any companies or organizations that aid them, even in incidentally or unknowingly."

Since 9/11, the US has officially considered acts of terrorism to be acts of war. Aitel's suggestion is to update this understanding so that it includes what would be "cyberterrorists" committing cyber acts of war, like the one that hit Sony.

"Frankly, we need to start talking about what role and responsibility the US government should have in securing US companies from cyberattacks," Aitel said.

More immediately, the US has some limited diplomatic options in response to the hack once North Korean culpability is established.

It could quietly pressure friendly regional governments to crack down on pro-Pyongyang organizations involved in funneling foreign currency and intelligence to the North Korean government, such as Chongryon, the regime's unofficial adjunct in Japan.

It could also dial back or completely freeze trade with the country, which was worth $21.9 million in 2014 — a relatively small amount, but a dramatic increase over the $6.6 million in trade from the year before. And the US could freeze any ongoing discussion of restoring large-scale food aid to the north, something that was halted in 2008.

Kim Jong-un computer hackingAn Act Of War?

Even with these rew reports of North Korean responsibility, the attack wasn't an act of war according to established guidelines of cyberwarfare.

NATO's Tallinn Manual defines an act of cyberwar that permits a military response as "a cyber operation, whether offensive or defensive, that is reasonably expected to cause injury or death to persons or damage or destruction to objects."

But the world after the Sony Pictures hack may require a new perspective, especially if North Korea is more conclusively identified as the culprit.

Aitel argues that while the attack "doesn’t meet the threshold for a response by our military," it should still be viewed as an act of war.

"We need to change the way we think about cyberattacks," Aitel told Business Insider in an email. "In many cases, these aren’t 'crimes' — they’re acts of war. A non-kinetic attack (i.e., destructive malware, destructive computer network attack) that causes just as much damage as a kinetic attack (i.e., a missile or bomb) should be viewed at the same level of urgency and need for US government/military response."

With the US reportedly close to blaming North Korea, the Sony hack could be a test-case for how the US approaches an entirely new type of cyber-incident — attacks in which state-sponsored hackers deal substantial economic and reputational damage to American companies.

The Sony hack is the second major attack in which hackers targeted American corporate infrastructure on a large scale with the primary goal of destroying it (as opposed to stealing from it or spying on it). 

An estimated 11 terabytes of information was taken, revealing information including scripts, unreleased movies, actor compensation, and off-the-cuff conversations among high-level Sony executives.

Sony Pictures hack

The attack's political motives, along with Sony's public humiliation, raise the specter of an entirely new phenomenon: hacks that combine "national rivalry, hacker ideology, performance art, ritual humiliation and data combustion, culminating in complete corporate chaos," as John Gapper explained in the Financial Times.

The malware used reportedly bore traces of Korean language packs and resembled software deployed during previous attacks against South Korean targets. This, along with the reports of the US's reported assignment of blame to Pyongyang, reinforces the idea that North Korea or its supporters hacked Sony as retribution for the release of "The Interview," the now-canceled film in which James Franco and Seth Rogen play talk-show hosts sent into the country to assassinate Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

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US officials believe North Korea is "centrally involved" in hacking Sony Pictures, reports The New York Times.

The Times paints a picture of how the attacks against Sony could have been carried out by North Korea.

The hackers, who call themselves the Guardians of Peace (GOP) used commercial tools to carry out their attack and used similar techniques to previous attacks on Saudi Arabia and Sourh Korea.

The hackers also routed their attack through the same Bolivian servers that had been used for an attack on North Korea in 2012.

Most of this evidence is circumstantial, and the Times notes that it "does not prove" the identity of the hackers. It's easy for hackers to disguise their tracks, and as a security expert told Business Insider earlier, tools formerly used by sophisticated nation states are now trickling down to lower-level hackers.

Sony announced on Thursday that it was pulling "The Interview" from its December 25 release because of threats of terrorism from the GOP.

Here's the full report from The New York Times.

SEE ALSO: Sony Could Lose $100 Million By Pulling 'The Interview'

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Newt Gingrich candle CPAC

Former Republican Speaker Of the House and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said the canceled release of the movie "The Interview" represents America's first defeat in a cyberwar.

Gingrich shared his thoughts on the situation on Twitter Wednesday evening shortly after Sony announced it was pulling the film, which had been scheduled for a Dec. 25 release. The movie's cancellation comes on the heels of a massive hack against Sony that US officials have linked to the North Korean government

No one should kid themselves. With the Sony collapse America has lost its first cyberwar. This is a very very dangerous precedent.

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) December 17, 2014

"The Interview" featured a mocking portrayal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Gingrich then tweeted at actor Rob Lowe, who had recently compared Sony's decision to pull the movie to Britain allowing Nazi Germany to accumulate territory in the leadup to World War II.

In that message, Gingrich reiterated his view the hack was "an act of war." 

.@RobLowe it wasn't the hackers who won, it was the terrorists and almost certainly the North Korean dictatorship, this was an act of war

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) December 17, 2014

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anonymous hackerEver since the Sony hack occurred nearly a month ago, the North Korean government has often been called the perpetrators behind the attacks. 

Tomorrow, the US government will reportedly name North Korea responsible.

But on Wednesday, Wired Magazine’s Kim Zetter wrote a convincing piece explaining how hard it is to pinpoint an attack.

Zetter writes hackers can easily create false clues and disguise their attacks as coming from a nation-state. Also, when nation-states are involved in cyber attacks, they are usually a lot more muted about it. They don’t go around posting their leaked documents like they did in this case. Zetter says such actions are more indicative of hacktivist attacks targeting large corporations. 

Zetter also says the first public statement sent to Sony after the attacks in late November had no mention of North Korea. In fact, a person claiming to be a spokesperson for GOP said in a previous interview that it was an “international organization…not under direction of any state.” Also, in a letter sent to Sony executives, the attackers asked for “monetary compensation,” a demand you rarely see in attacks for a political cause.

Some of the evidence that pointed to North Korean involvement include the encoding language that was used by the machine in the attacks. Zetter says that, too, can be configured to manipulate investigators. The RawDisk that was used to wipe out data also had nothing to do with North Korea in previous attacks.

Instead, Zetter says all the evidence indicating North Korean involvement are “circumstantial,” and points to hacktivists as the attackers. 

You can read the full article here.

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