Sony Pictures was hit by unknown hackers last week who managed to steal various sensitive information, including high-quality digital versions of several unreleased Sony movies, prompting the FBI to issue a five-page warning to certain U.S. businesses regarding a new type of “destructive” malware. A copy of the memo has been obtained by Reuters.
Even though the FBI did not specifically name Sony in the warning, security experts believe the malicious software described in it refers to the attack suffered by Sony.
In addition to stealing data, the malware is apparently able to temporarily or permanently destroy hardware, specifically hard drives, making data recovery a nearly impossible task in the aftermath of an attack.
“The overwriting of the data files will make it extremely difficult and costly, if not impossible, to recover the data using standard forensic methods,” the report said.
“This correlates with information about that many of us in the security industry have been tracking,” a person familiar with the attack on Sony, who has seen the document, said. “It looks exactly like information from the Sony attack.”
This appears to be the first time such destructive malware is used against U.S. companies, although similar attacks have been seen before, targeting South Korea and the Middle East. For example, one such attack against oil producer Saudi Aramco “knocked out some 30,000 computers.”
“Security experts said that repairing the computers requires technicians to manually either replace the hard drives on each computer, or re-image them, a time-consuming and expensive process,” Reuters wrote.
Those attacks are believed to have been the work of hackers following instructions from North Korea and Iran.
It’s not clear whether North Korean hackers are also responsible for the attack on Sony, but one of the theories floating around is that North Korea might have attacked Sony as a response to the studio’s upcoming “The Interview” movie. The comedy, launching on Christmas Day, tells the story of two reporters turned CIA agents who are given a special assassination target, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.