Well, this is a weird twist. Just hours after we learned that North Korea wanted to work with the United States on a joint investigation into the Sony Pictures hack, The New York Times is reporting that the US now wants China's help in stopping North Korean hackers. Apparently, US officials want to unleash the Great Firewall on North Korea.
At least, that's what it sounds like. "What we are looking for is a blocking action, something that would cripple their efforts to carry out attacks," an unnamed official told the Times. China reportedly hasn't responded to the request. However, as the paper reports: "[China's] cooperation would be critical, since virtually all of North Korea's telecommunications run through Chinese-operated networks." The hacks themselves were routed through China first and then through Singapore, Thailand, and Bolivia.
This puts everyone in a bit of a pickle. The US and China don't exactly have the best relationship, especially on the cyber security front. After all, it was less than a year ago that the FBI issued wanted posters for Chinese hackers suspected of breaking into American networks. It doesn't sound like the US has a lot of other good choice, based on the Times report. Economic sanctions are one. A more aggressive offensive strike on North Korean targets run by the US military's Cyber Command is another.
No matter what the options are, it's worth considering that if North Korean hackers broke into Sony Pictures, they could go after a target that would have real physical effects, like infrastructure—and that's the last thing anybody wants. As one official said, "There are a lot of constraints on us, because we live in a giant glass house." So "a blocking action" doesn't sound so bad, after all. [NYT]
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