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North Korea Behind Sony Hack? If So, It Had Help, Expert Says

Scott Borg says the skill level evidenced in the cyberattack is probably beyond what North Korean hackers are capable of.
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A cybersecurity expert says that if North Korea was behind the crippling hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment, as U.S. officials have suggested, it probably had help.

Scott Borg, director and chief economist of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, an independent research institute that assesses the consequences of cyberattacks, says it's "by no means a certainty" that the Pyongyang government was responsible for the November hack.

The attack exposed Sony corporate secrets, sensitive emails and private employee information. Sony on Wednesday also canceled the theatrical release of "The Interview," a comedy that revolves around a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Borg told NBC News via email that while it's possible some party other than North Korea perpetrated the hack, "the most likely scenario right now seems to be that North Korea carried out these attacks, but that they had help from outside hackers far more skilled than they are, or from someone at Sony with inside access. The skill level of these cyberattacks is just too much of a jump from what North Korean hackers were capable of earlier this year."

On Wednesday, a senior U.S. official told NBC News that a federal investigation had concluded North Korea was responsible for the hacking. The Obama administration would not say so publicly on Thursday. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said only that the attack itself was being considered "a national security matter."



— Robert Windrem, Pete Williams and James Eng