Starting on Nov. 24, Sony Pictures Entertainment was the victim of what Reuters characterised as the most devastating hack ever committed against a major US company.
Hackers managed to shut down Sony’s systems and stole a possible 11 terabytes of data from the company. The stolen data included multiple movies, some of which have yet to be released in theatres, along with private salary and medical information for employees.
According to experts, the hack is “the first major attack on a US company to use a highly destructive class of malicious software that is designed to make computer networks unable to operate,” Reuters reported.
Although the scope of the attack is unprecedented, the US is routinely hammered by hackers from around the world.
US-based computer security firm Norse has released a real-time animated map that illustrates ongoing cyberattacks around the world. In the span of just 45 minutes this past July, servers based in the US were the target of 5,840 cyberattacks.
Within that span of time, the US suffered from 27 times more cyberattacks than Thailand, the second most targeted country. Thailand was the target of 220 cyber attacks during these 45 minutes.
The Norse map does not represent all hacking attempts in the world. Instead, according to Smithsonian Magazine, the map relies on a Norse honeypot network — a network purposefully designed to detect hacking — to provide a representative snapshot of global hacking attempts.
In actuality, there are orders of magnitude more hacking attempts on any given day than recorded by Norse. For instance, there are an estimated 20 million attacks per day against locations within Utah. There are 10 million daily hacking attempts against the Pentagon alone.
China is responsible for the vast majority of these attacks. Within the 45-minute span, China accounted for 2,513 attacks. The US accounted for the second highest number of attacks, with 1,550 attacks originating within America. However, a number of American attacks targeted computers elsewhere in the United States.
It is likely that these intra-US attacks are the result of “zombie computers” — computers that have been compromised by a hacker and carry out attacks at the hacker’s discretion.
Chinese cyberattacks are highly damaging to both the US economy and national security. China is currently developing a new plane that is modelled after stolen plans for the U.S.’ F-35 fifth-generation plane.
Aside from China, Iran and Russia have become major hacker threats to the US. Iranian hackers have infiltrated more than 50 entities across 16 countries. A Tehran-based group was also behind a 2013 cyber attack against a US Navy network.
In November, the State Department had to shut down its email network after hackers thought to have ties with Russia compromised the unclassified email system. Classified emails were not affected by the breach.
Sony believes that the hack was the work of North Korea, whose government strongly objects to an upcoming film the company is releasing depicting an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The hack may be unique in its severity, and could even signal a troubling improvment in North Korea’s cyber-offensive. capabilities. But as this map shows, outside attempts on US computer systems happen on almost a second-by-second basis.
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