LOS ANGELES/BOSTON - Forensics experts hired by Sony Corp to investigate the massive cyber attack at its Hollywood studio said the breach was unprecedented, well-planned and carried out by an "organised group," according to an email obtained by Reuters on Saturday.
Kevin Mandia, the top executive at FireEye Inc's Mandiant forensics unit, made the comments in an email to Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE).
They are among the first details of the investigation to be made public, yet they do not discuss what people are most interested in knowing: The extent of the damage to the studio's network or whether investigators had any leads in determining who was behind the campaign, the most destructive cyber attack reported to date against a company on US soil.
People close to the investigation have told Reuters that North Korea is a principal suspect in the cyber attack, yet a North Korean diplomat has denied that Pyongyang is involved.
Lynton forwarded that message from Mandia to his employees on Saturday, saying that the note was "helpful in understanding the nature of what we are dealing with."
Mandia, whose forensics firm has probed some of the biggest and most sophisticated cyber attacks known to date, told Lynton in his email that "The scope of this attack differs from any we have responded to in the past, as its purpose was to both destroy property and release confidential information to the public."
He added in the email that "The bottom line is that this was an unparalleled and well planned crime, carried out by an organised group, for which neither SPE nor other companies could have been fully prepared."
FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said the agency concurred with Mandiant's analysis that the attack was conducted using techniques that went undetected by standard antivirus software.
He said the agency was continuing to investigate the breach, but declined to discuss progress. "The targeting of private-sector computer networks remains a significant threat, and the FBI will continue to identify, pursue, and defeat those who pose a threat in cyberspace," he said.