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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NSA v. NK: What the hell is going on?

A lot of tech-heads have questioned whether North Korea was truly responsible for the Great Sony Hack. We now learn from Engadget that the NSA knew all about it because No Such Agency had hacked NK first. How did they know? Because the NSA inserted backdoor programs into North Korean computer systems years and years ago.

(Which makes sense. The Promis story, which now seems like ancient history, was built around that premise.)

Here comes the troubling part: The new information supposedly comes from newly-released Snowden documents published in Der Spiegel. Yet Engadget was able to confirm and expand upon the story through anonymous government sources!

Seriously? Are we supposed to believe this? NSA insiders "anonymously" expanding upon a Snowden revelation? That doesn't seem right.

But it all gets stranger still.

Although the Engadget piece on North Korea cites the Der Spiegel article, the latter does not mention North Korea at all. Der Spiegel offers what seems like a legitimate discussion of the Snowden revelations -- or at least, of someone's revelations. (There have long been rumors of a second leaker.) The German piece is worth reading in its own right, even though you have to peek between the lines to see how it might be relevant to the Great Sony Hack.

But the Engadget article...well, it's very different. It seems planted.

Engadget speaks of backdoors that have been placed directly in the NK systems. By contrast, Spiegel speaks of  methods used by the NSA to eavesdrop -- silently and anonymously -- on electronic traffic flowing to Chinese intelligence. This haul is said to include material from smaller neighboring countries (which may or may not include NK).

Moreover, the Engadget article raises a very good question: If the NSA knew about the Great Sony Hack from Day 1, why did the Agency do nothing to stop it? Engadget does try to answer that question, but the solution they offer is none too persuasive.

What's going on here? Can you dope out this mystery?

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