U.S. investigators have evidence that hackers stole the computer credentials of a system administrator to get access to Sony's computer system, allowing them broad access, U.S. officials briefed on the investigation tell CNN. The finding is one reason why U.S. investigators do not believe the attack on Sony was aided by someone on the inside, the officials tell CNN.
The revelation is part of what is behind the government's conclusion that hackers operating on behalf of North Korea were responsible. The government is expected to publicly blame the reclusive regime as early as Friday. The hackers ability to gain access to the passwords of a top-level information technology employee allowed them to have "keys to the entire building," one official said.
The access has led to some suspicion of perhaps an inside job. It's a common tactic that hackers use, and cyber-attacks often look like inside jobs, the officials say. U.S. used signal intelligence and other means to trace the attack to North Korea, finding digital footprints that pointed to North Korea. The statement to be issued as early as Friday morning will provide some of the evidence behind the U.S. government's conclusion, but not all.
Though officials say they are planning to lay blame on Friday, they haven't yet decided how to respond to the attack.
As Pakistan started three days of national mourning Wednesday, the Taliban said they targeted a school that mostly admits soldiers' children because the students aspired to follow in their fathers' footsteps and target militants.
Terrorists ambushed the school in Peshawar on Tuesday, explosives strapped to their bodies, and burst into an auditorium filled with students taking exams.
They sprayed bullets rapidly, killing 145 people. Of those, 132 were children, authorities said.
In an email, the terror group warned Muslims to avoid places with military ties, saying it attacked the school to avenge the deaths of children allegedly killed by soldiers in tribal areas.
It accused the students at the army school of "following the path of their fathers and brothers to take part in the fight against the tribesmen" nationwide.
The Army Public School and Degree College is home to about 1,100 students and staff, most of them sons and daughters of army personnel from around Peshawar. The public school admits children whose parents are in the military, but its classes are not restricted to future soldiers.
A day after the massacre, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty for terrorism cases.
U.S. investigators say an announcement pinning the blame on hackers working for the Pyongyang regime could come as soon as Thursday.
Because of the North Korean regime's tight control of the Internet in the reclusive country, U.S. officials believe the hack was ordered directly by the country's leadership.
North Korea experts say the country has spent its scarce resources on building up a unit called "Bureau 121" to carry out cyber attacks.
Earlier Wednesday, Sony pulled the film, which depicts the assassination of North Korea's leader, following a threat that people should avoid going to theaters where "The Interview" is playing.
Sony didn't have much choice - the country's major theater owners had virtually all said they had decided to postpone or cancel next week's screenings. Concerns about upholding freedom of artistic expression were countered by fears that families would heed the hackers' warning and bypass the box office for the remainder of the holiday season.
"In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film "The Interview," we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release," Sony said in its first statement on the matter.
U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by theCuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of alandmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.
President Obama is expected to announce Gross' release at noon.
Gross' "humanitarian" release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.
President Barack Obama is also set to announce a broad range of diplomatic and regulatory measures in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed.