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The FBI today named the North Korean government as responsible for the cyber attack against Sony Pictures last month, saying its technical analysis points to the isolated, Communist country.

But now what?

“This could embolden future attackers,” Johannes Ullrich, dean of research for the SANS Technology Institute and the head of SANS’s Internet Storm Center security arm, said of Sony’s withdrawal of its comedy, The Interview, earlier this week after threats were posted online by the alleged hackers. “Just like with real-world threats, a successful highly-publicized attack like this will draw out copy cats to conduct similar attacks against other companies.”

The attacks, which were disclosed in late November, made off with gigabyte upon gigabyte of internal Sony documents and files, including embarrassing emails, financial information, passwords, and current and former employees’ personal information.

Speculation that North Korea was behind the attack has been circulating for weeks, primarily because of The Interview, a movie whose plot centers around an assassination attempt against the country’s dictator, Kim Jung-Un.

But fingering North Korea is a waste of time, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute.

“There’s been so much focus on the cyber warfare aspect of this, as in ‘Oh, my God, this was North Korea,'” said Pescatore in an interview today. “The focus has been on the actors, not on the [weak security] that enabled the actors.”

More important than arguing who was responsible, said Pescatore, will be what companies do in response to the massive leaks from Sony.

“We’ve been scared of trying out stronger authentication, but maybe we’ll try that now,” hoped Pescatore, talking about two-factor authentication for accounts, including email and network access, that relies on more than a username and password. Two-factor authentication also requires another piece of information, typically a multi-digit code generated by a specialized hardware token or more commonly, by a service provider or enterprise IT department, that’s sent to a user’s smartphone.

Without that code, hackers who manage to dupe victims into disclosing their passwords — typically via a phishing attack, which many experts believe was at the root of the Sony attack if it wasn’t an inside job — are not able to access hijacked accounts.

“Maybe this is the one more straw on the camel’s back,” said Pescatore.

Sony’s example should also convince companies to encrypt all of their data, or at least more of it. “Encryption is not easy to do when you want to collaborate, but the hope now is that the attacks cause enough management attention for companies to say, ‘We are going to do this hard thing,'” Pescatore said.

The decision to yank The Interview — triggered by U.S. theater chains’ announcements that they would not show the movie for fear that the hackers’ threats of physical attacks would be carried out — was blasted by many security experts this week.

Today, President Barack Obama weighed in, too, saying, “I think they made a mistake,” of Sony and the theater chains.

“This will encourage others, certainly,” said Tom Chapman, director of cyber operations at Edgewave, a San Diego-based security firm, and a former U.S. Navy cyber-warfare commander who also worked with the FBI and the Navy’s criminal investigative service, or NCIS. “What’s going to happen if there’s a movie that a Muslim terrorist doesn’t like? What will happen if some group says, ‘Don’t sell this product’ or ‘Don’t support this cause?'”

Ullrich agreed. “With the wave of DDoS [distributed denial-of-service] attacks over the last years, they found a lot of ‘followers’ [when] they where successful,” he said in an email reply to questions.

For Chapman, implementing stricter security measures — something Sony in hindsight certainly should have done, as none of the documents leaked by the hackers was even password protected, much less encrypted — is well and good. But he urged companies to do more than that.

“An IT department must know what’s normal [on their network] and what’s not normal,” Chapman argued. “They have to watch what’s going on on their network. There’s no way someone should be able to remove gigabytes of data and not be noticed.”

In its statement today, the FBI said it would “identify, pursue, and impose costs and consequences on individuals, groups, or nation states who use cyber means to threaten the United States or U.S. interests,” a hint that the reports of possible retaliation against North Korea were accurate.

Good luck with that, said Chapman.

“There’s not much we can do to get back at them,” Chapman said, pointing out the sanctions already imposed on North Korea and its almost non-existent digital infrastructure. “We have to find a different method.”

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North Korea seemingly wasted no time this week trumpeting Sony Pictures’ decision to cancel the opening of The Interview, a comedy that portrayed an assassination plot against the country’s dictator, Kim Jung-un.

“Heroes force Japanese cinema bandits to bow before indomitable fist of Korean people,” tweeted the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday. “10,000 years of life to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un!” the tweet added.

Just one problem: The DPRK News Service account is a parody. The isolated country’s mouthpiece has no Twitter account.

Twitter parodies are commonplace: Some are even more popular than the sources they mimic, like FauxPelini the hilarious account that mocks former Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini. The fake has 176,000 followers, while Pelini’s has just over half as many. But the one posing as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is remarkably believable because it reads very much like official news bulletins from the actual KCNA.

“What is more ridiculous is that the puppet group dares pull up compatriots, over its ‘human rights issue,’ forgetful of its position whereby it only has to dance to the tune of its U.S. master, bereft of its own sovereignty,” read a KCNA piece published Thursday on its website. The news bulletin was titled “S. Korean Puppet Group Has No Face to Talk about Human Rights.”

The phony Twitter account uses the same Cultural Revolution-era rhetoric as the real KCNA, dropping in words like “bandits” and “mobsters” to describe the West just as the real deal tosses out words like “puppet” and “mad-cap.” The two also share the same kind of fractured English, and DPRK News Service leans on the official news agency for its frequent use of photographs.

“Culture and Film Minister Roh Nam-Hon warns reactionary film studios of Japan and U.S. to increase respect for DPRK, or face obliteration,” the fake account tweeted Thursday.

It helps that North Korea is well known for bellicose statements aimed at the U.S., South Korea and Japan, and fixates on easily-ridiculed topics, like this week’s “Kim Jong Un Gives Field Guidance to Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuff Factory” and “Cuban Leader Sends Floral Basket to DPRK Embassy.”

The flowers were in memory of the death of Kim Jong-un’s father, former dictator Kim Jung-il, three years ago this week.

The Twitter parody account took advantage of the Cuba story today. “Cuban ambassador commemorates Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il with gift of tropical fruit baskets to Supreme People’s Assembly,” a tweet read.

North Korea’s prominence in the news of late due to the Sony Pictures hack and follow-up threat, has boosted the parody account’s follower count. As of Friday, it stood at approximately 17,300; on Monday, it had 15,700 followers.

Neither the DPRK News Service Twitter account nor the North’s news agency has yet commented on today’s announcement by the FBI that North Korea was responsible for the attack against Sony.

Give them time.

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Microsoft said Friday that while two older midrange Lumia phones will receive its Denim update in just a few days, Lumia Icon owners will have to wait until 2015 to receive it, breaking an earlier Microsoft promise.

Microsoft said Friday that the Lumia 822 and Lumia 928 would receive the Denim OS upgrade in the next few days. The phones are old: The Lumia 928 is a midrange phone from June 2013, and the 822 also dates back to mid-2013. But the newer, better Icon will have to wait until “early 2015″ to receive it.

In September, Microsoft promised that Denim–Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, plus some camera-specific updates–would roll out during the fourth quarter. Microsoft said Thursday that it had begun rolling out Denim, which will bring improvements like a Store Live Tile and a consumer VPN function, as part of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. Specific phones–the Lumia 930, Lumia Icon, Lumia 1520 and Lumia 830–will also eventually receive the Lumia Camera update, with faster shooting times and the ability to record 4K video.

Microsoft said it would follow the limited Denim rollout with a broader one in the new year. “A wider rollout of Lumia Denim to all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to begin in early January,” Microsoft said in a blog post, “following partner testing and approvals.” Despite the carrier reference, however, Microsoft representatives wouldn’t say whether Verizon was behind the delay in the upgrade.

The Icon is officially stuck on the “Black” update, two iterations before Denim. Users can track the status of their phone updates on this Microsoft page, although Microsoft appears to have discarded a column that indicated where the next update was in the rollout process.

Why this matters: The Lumia Icon is the closest thing Microsoft has to a flagship device, even though it’s about ten months old. If the best Windows Phone isn’t first in line for an eagerly anticipated upgrade, that can’t help the mood within the Windows Phone community (even though it’s probably Verizon that’s holding things up, not Microsoft). It doesn’ help that recently Ed Bott, a technology writer for ZDNet, and Tom Warren, a writer for The Verge, both publicly abandoned Windows Phone within days of each other, based on OS and app delays.

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A federal judge on Friday questioned the strength of a key lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the government’s Internet surveillance program known as “upstream” data collection.

Judge Jeffrey White heard oral arguments by attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the suit, and the government, during a hearing in a federal district court in Oakland, California. The EFF says its suit is the first challenge in public court to the government’s upstream data program, which copies online data from the main cables connecting Internet networks around the world.

The EFF first filed its suit in 2008 after an AT&T technician provided evidence that the company routed copies of its Internet traffic records to the NSA.

The National Security Agency program is unconstitutional because it collects communications, including content such as email, of people without ties to issues of national security, EFF attorney Richard Wiebe told the judge. That’s an overly broad dragnet that violates the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, he said.

U.S. Justice Department attorney James Gilligan did not deny the government taps the Internet’s backbone to gather data. But the government uses filtering mechanisms to automatically destroy certain communications records within milliseconds, he said.

Judge White could declare the upstream collection program unconstitutional, a ruling the government would probably appeal. But on Friday, he questioned whether there was enough evidence on either side to say whether the program is constitutional.

The judge’s ruling might take months, judging from the number and complexity of questions he asked Friday.

“What evidence is there that it’s all international communications [gathered], not just communications with suspected terrorists or hot spots?” he asked EFF attorney Wiebe.

Wiebe cited a top-secret 2009 report by the NSA inspector general detailing the government’s email and Internet data collection, published by The Guardian. Other documents, including AT&T’s first surveillance transparency report, published earlier this year, provide evidence of the program’s reach, he said.

But the government has never confirmed nor denied the 2009 secret report, Gilligan said, and AT&T’s report only pertains to legal court orders received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The government has argued that upstream data collection by the NSA is legal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The judge also asked whether the government was seeking an easy out by simply saying its data filtering was “automatic.”

“It’s concerning that, given the digital age, if the government can’t do something directly, but can do it by a machine, does that open the door to get around whether there was illegal search and seizure?” he said.

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The data breach at the Staples office-supply chain may have affected roughly 1.16 million payment cards as criminals deployed malware to point-of-sale systems at 115 stores, the company said Friday.

The affected stores cover 35 states from California to Connecticut, according to a list Staples released Friday. The chain has more than 1,400 stores in the U.S.

The malware, which allowed the theft of debit and credit card data, was removed in mid-September upon detection, Staples said. The retailer had previously confirmed the incident in October. A previous report from security researcher Brian Krebs around that time cited fraudulent transactions traced to cards that were used for purchases at Staples stores in the Northeastern U.S., but apparently the attack was much wider than that.

The malware may have allowed access to transaction data including cardholder names, payment card numbers, expiration dates, and card verification codes, for purchases made between Aug. 10 and Sept. 16, Staples said Friday.

At two of the stores, the malware may have involved purchases over an even longer period, from July 20 through Sept. 16. Staples has posted a list of all the stores involved on its site.

Staples is offering free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, and a free credit report, to any customer who used a payment card at any of the affected stores during the relevant time periods.

Staples is another in a long line of retailers to have had sensitive data stolen this year. The addition of chips to payment cards, used in most of the world but not often in the U.S., could help prevent future attacks. But a broad rollout of the technology may take a long time.

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Spurred in large part by enterprise interest in the hybrid cloud, the overall cloud market is likely to see great growth in the coming year.

Industry analyst firm IDC predicts that the global cloud market, including private, public and hybrid clouds, will hit $118 billion in 2015 and crest at $200 billion by 2018. If the market shows that much growth next year, it will mean a 23.2% rise over the $95.8 billion market it reached in 2014.

IDC noted that 2014 showed a 25.9% increase over 2013, when the market was worth $76.1 billion.

The cloud, thanks to users gaining confidence in its security and reliability, is working on some strong momentum.

“Security remains the number one brake on cloud adoption, but we see more CIOs recognizing that cloud providers offer some of the most secure IT on the planet,” Frank Gens, an analyst with IDC, said. “We’re also starting to see the cloud used to create new and better security services, like Amazon’s new encryption-as-a-service and a growing number of cloud-based threat intelligence services.”

It’s not that CIOs and CEOs are less concerned about security, especially when it comes to the cloud. It’s just that cloud vendors are coming up with better security answers, according to Allan Krans, an analyst with Technology Business Research.

“I don’t think the security fears go away,” he said. “I think there’s more consideration and availability of services that provide enhanced security and performance. It’s bridging the gap between low-security public cloud service and high-security private clouds.”

What’s helping to bridge that gap is the hybrid cloud — a combination of using a private cloud and a public cloud, giving the user the security of a private offering and the low cost of public.

While the cloud market is still immature, enterprises are starting to get their feet wet with the hybrid cloud. While they may not make a huge shift to put critical workloads or even production workloads into the hybrid cloud this year, companies are looking to experiment with it and try it out with basic apps and information.

“Hybrid is at the early stages of the maturity cycle,” said Krans. “Hybrid is growing, but it will take a lot of experience to really grow it for more critical applications.”

Enterprises should begin getting that experience in the coming year.

According to Technology Business Research, the private cloud market is expected to grow 35% in 2015 and the public cloud is expected to grow 25%. Those are good numbers, but they’re nothing like the expectations for the hybrid cloud.

Krans noted that Technology Business Research is predicting a 50% growth rate for the hybrid cloud in 2015 compared to this year.

“They’re a smaller base, so there’s more room for growth,” he added. “There are a lot of enterprises and customers investing in their first pilot for hybrid deployments. You have a lot of customers who will be going form zero to something, so there’s a much bigger growth curve.”

Gens agrees that what he called the “hybrid movement” will certainly be a high-growth area for the coming year, boosting the entire market.

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The “grinch” Linux vulnerability that Alert Logic raised alarms about Tuesday is not a vulnerability at all, according to Red Hat.

“This report incorrectly classifies expected behavior as a security issue,” said a Red Hat bulletin issued Wednesday, responding to Alert Logic’s claims.

Security firm Alert Logic Tuesday claimed that grinch could be as severe as the Heartbleed bug and that it’s a serious design flaw in how Linux systems handle user permissions, which could allow malicious attackers to gain root access to a machine.

Alert Logic claimed that an attacker could exploit grinch through the use of a third-party Linux software framework called Policy Kit (Polkit), which was designed to aid users in installing and running software packages. Red Hat maintains Polkit, an open-source program. By allowing users to install software programs, which usually requires root access, Polkit could provide an avenue to run malicious programs, inadvertently or otherwise, Alert Logic said.

But the system was designed to work that way — in other words, grinch is not a bug but a feature, according to Red Hat.

“If you are trusting users to install any software on your system without a password by using software that leverages Policykit, you are inherently bypassing the authentication and access control built into Linux,” wrote Jen Andre, cofounder of the Threat Stack security monitoring firm, in a blog post on the topic.

Even though the grinch behavior is intended, it still can be abused or modified to compromise systems, Alert Logic senior security researcher Tyler Bourland wrote in an email to the IDG News Service.

“The issue here is that there is a way to open up the surface area to attacks,” Bourland wrote. “If installing packages worked like every other operation, such as removing packages or adding repositories, and always asked for a password, then this wouldn’t have the abuse potential we’ve identified.”

Nonetheless, the use of Polkit has some severe limitations for the would-be attacker, Andre said in an interview.

The attacker would need to have physical access to the Linux computer and have to interact with the machine through an attached keyboard and mouse. If the attacker had this level of access, it would be just as easy to reboot the machine into a recovery mode and access the data and programs that way, Andre noted.

Also, Polkit is not installed by default on all Linux machines — in fact, the primary use case is for workstations that have graphical desktop interfaces, which themselves constitute a small percentage of Linux machines running today, Andre said.

In other words, grinch doesn’t have the wide attack surface of Shellshock, which relied on the Bash shell found in nearly all Linux distributions.

Other security experts have also downplayed grinch.

“In some ways, this isn’t so much a vulnerability, as more a common overly permissive configuration of many Linux systems,” wrote Johannes Ullrich of the SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Center security advisory site, in a blog post.

Ullrich also noted that grinch is not entirely benign, however: “It could easily be leveraged to escalate privileges beyond the intent of the Polkit configuration.”

Andre pointed out that administrators who are managing desktop Linux machines running Polkit should be aware of the potential danger and that they should check what programs Polkit is managing to ensure no malicious activity is going on.

Application developers and Linux distributors should also ensure that they are using the Polkit framework correctly, Andre said.

Even Tyler, the co-author of the original report, seems to admit that grinch is not so severe.

Grinch is a “surface opening stager and by itself nothing much,” Bourland wrote, referring to how an attacker would need additional vulnerabilities to use in conjunction with grinch to stage an attack,in an email on the Open Source Security mailing list.

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Microsoft confirmed Thursday that it had begun rolling out its Lumia “Denim” update for WIndows Phone, officially bringing Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 and improved camera functionality for supported devices.

Microsoft is pushing Denim somewhat piecemeal across different geographies and phones, however, so some of the features may arrive on different phones at different times. And there’s no official timetable to bring it to the United States–although it should arrive on American shores fairly soon.

The Lumia Denim update ships as part of the Lumia 830, the Lumia 730 dual-SIM variant, and the Lumia 735. All other Microsoft Lumia Windows Phone 8 phones will receive Denim sometime before the end of the year–subject to carrier approval, of course.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 arrives

Denim includes the official rollout of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, with the ability to combine apps into folders, merge messages for forwarding and replies in the Messages app, plus improvements like a Store Live Tile and a consumer VPN function. (Some of you have been able to try out Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 via Microsoft’s “developer” program.) Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, is also arriving in the United Kingdom and China as a “beta” app, as well as to Australia, Canada, and India as an alpha app–all as part of the Denim update.

For those who’ve been frustrated by the lengthy shot-to-shot and focus performance of the otherwise excellent Lumia camera hardware, Denim’s camera improvements will also be welcome. However, they’re being deployed as part of a new Lumia Camera app (the older Lumia Camera app is being renamed “Lumia Camera Classic”).

Lumia Camera, however, will be available only on the newer, higher-end Lumia models: the Lumia 930, Lumia Icon, Lumia 1520 and Lumia 830–not the 1020, with its massive 41MP sensor. Lumia Camera capabilities will include a faster shot-to-shot speed measured in milliseconds, Microsoft said. Moment Capture will trigger 4K video recording via a long press of the button. Rich Capture automatically captures exposures for HDR photos that can be added after the fact, and a Glance Screen can place data from Bing Weather or Bing Health and Fitness on your lock screen.

Phones with the SensorCore technology–the Lumia 930, Lumia Icon, and Lumia 1520–will also be able to trigger Cortana by saying “Hey Cortana” as a trigger phrase.

Who gets what, and when

Here’s what it all boils down to: If you’re an American Windows Phone owner, you’ll be receiving Denim as part of a carrier update, possibly by the end of the year. But only the Lumia 930, Lumia Icon and Lumia 1520 will get both the Lumia Camera update and the “Hey Cortana” active listening feature. The Lumia 830 will get only the Lumia Camera update.

We haven’t had a chance to play around with the Lumia Camera app or the Cortana active listening feature. We’ll let you know when those features arrive on one of our phones.

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Uber is suspending its service in Portland, Oregon, for the next three months while city regulators there work to reframe local laws around taxis and car hailing apps.

“We are pausing pick-ups within Portland city limits for three months,” an Uber spokeswoman said Thursday via email. The company will continue operating in the larger Portland metro area, she said, which includes Beaverton and Hillsboro. Drop-offs from those areas would continue in Portland, she said.

Pick-ups in Portland will continue through this Sunday evening, she said, which Uber also detailed in a blog post.

The development comes just days after a lawsuit from the city of Portland against Uber, which ordered it to halt its service because it did not have the permits to operate there legally.

“Uber is dedicated to curating and continuing a valuable and constructive relationship with Portland’s lawmakers, working to create a regulatory framework that works for everyone, not just us,” the company said.

A spokesman for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales did not immediately respond to comment.

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North Korea or not? There’s still a lot we don’t know about the attack on Sony Pictures and those behind it.

After two weeks of investigations, anonymous government officials told some reporters and politicians on Wednesday that North Korea was behind the attacks. But on Thursday, U.S. officials resisted making the same allegations in public and didn’t release any evidence to back up the anonymous claims.

North Korean involvement is certainly possible. After all, defectors have spoken about North Korea’s cyber attack force and training. But it also plays into a popular and easy-to-believe narrative about the country.

There certainly appears to be circumstantial evidence, but it could be just that. So before calling case closed, here are some reasons to be wary, at least until some evidence is made public.

It’s unlike any hack attributed to North Korea in the past

North Korea has been blamed for a string of hacks in the past, and it’s generally accepted that the country has the capability to hack and attack companies. But no previous attack attributed to North Korea — or any nation-state — has been so public and so noisy. In the past, attacks happened, North Korea was suspected, and then sometimes the country was later blamed. It rarely said anything, except for an initial denial. This time around, the hacker group has posted messages online taunting Sony and telling the FBI they cannot be caught. Early on, they were also interacting with reporters.

It is, however, very similar to plenty of hacker activist attacks made against major corporations and governments and — it’s worth noting — against North Korean Internet sites in May 2013. In those attacks, thousands of user names and passwords for North Korean news site “Uriminzokkiri” were leaked by hackers operating under the “Anonymous” banner.

The hackers didn’t mention “The Interview” at first

If the hack was all about stopping the release of “The Interview,” why didn’t that come up earlier? For the first couple of weeks, the messages that accompanied leaked data didn’t mention the movie at all. It was much more about Sony and its executives — something underlined by the vindictiveness of the leaks.

Here’s a key paragraph from a message sent on Nov. 30 to an IDG News Service reporter from the same e-mail address used to leak the first cache of Sony data:

“Sony and Sony Pictures have made terrible racial discrimination and human rights violation, indiscriminate tyranny and restructuring in recent years. It has brought damage to a lot of people, some of whom are among us. Nowadays Sony Pictures is about to prey on the weak with a plan of another indiscriminate restructuring for their own benefits. This became a decisive motive of our action. We required Sony Pictures to stop this and pay proper monetary compensation to the victims.”

The movie wasn’t mentioned until a message on Dec. 8, and then it was in addition to previous demands made by the group.

“Do carry out our demand if you want to escape us. And, Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War!”

The movie wasn’t mentioned by name until Dec. 10, when the hackers also issued their threat to movie theaters.

North Korea issues threats all the time

The country expressed outrage at “The Interview” on June 25 when, without mentioning it by name, it promised “Those who defamed our supreme leadership and committed the hostile acts against the DPRK can never escape the stern punishment to be meted out according to a law wherever they might be in the world.”

If you don’t follow North Korea closely — and few do — you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s a pretty damning statement of intention. But such threats are business as usual for North Korea.

On the same day, the state-run news agency hit out at regional U.S. military actions, saying the situation was so grave “that a nuclear war may break out any moment.” In the same article, it said “Only merciless punishment and fist, not word, will work on the U.S.” And a day later, it lashed out at South Korea, saying its own soldiers were awaiting “the order to be given by the Supreme Command to strike the provocateurs.”

It’s easy to believe

Because not a lot is known about North Korea, things that really should be questioned are sometimes taken as fact because they neatly fit into the box where many people place North Korean behavior: weird with a touch of crazy.

Take the death of Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Un’s uncle, who was removed in a purge a year ago. A report, eventually traced back to a Chinese satirical website, said he had been killed by being stripped naked and fed to a pack of ravenous dogs. Newspapers jumped on the story without questioning its source, and it made global headlines for a day until cooler minds noted he was probably killed by a firing squad.

And then there was Kim Jong Un’s former girlfriend, Hyon Song Wol, who, according to newspaper headlines in late 2013, had also been purged and killed by firing squad. In May this year she appeared on North Korean television speaking at an event in Pyongyang and looking very much alive.

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