US officials: North Korea ordered the Sony hack

Sony's real cost still to come: Bibb
Sony's real cost still to come: Bibb   

U.S. officials have concluded that the North Korean government ordered the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment — a breach that led to the studio cancelling the planned release of "The Interview" — and a U.S. official told NBC News that the country "can't let this go unanswered."

The officials told NBC News the hacking attack originated outside North Korea, but they believe the individuals behind it were acting on orders from the North Koreans.

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"We have found linkage to the North Korean government," according to a U.S. government source.

An official said the U.S. is discussing what form a response could take, and couldn't detail what options the government has available.

The security breach embarrassed several high-profile Sony executives and led to the studio cancelling the Dec. 25 release of "The Interview," a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that depicts a fictional assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Amid fallout from the Sony hack, a New Regency film tentatively titled "Pyongyang" and starring Steve Carell "will not be moving forward."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects KPA Air and Anti-Air Force Unit 458 in an undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on Dec. 8, 2014.
KCNA | North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects KPA Air and Anti-Air Force Unit 458 in an undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on Dec. 8, 2014.

Sony on Wednesday dropped its plans to release "The Interview" on Christmas Day after some of the country's largest theater chains said they were holding back or dropping the movie following threats of violence made by the same group that claimed it hacked Sony, Guardians for Peace.

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"Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business," Sony said in a statement Wednesday, saying that it reached the decision after the top cinema chains pulled out. Regal, Cinemark, Carmike and Cineplex were among the chains that said it would not show the film on the planned Dec. 25 premiere, citing security concerns.

The White House National Security Council said in a statement Wednesday that "the U.S. government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice" and expressed support for Sony. "The United States respects artists' and entertainers' right to produce and distribute content of their choosing. … We take very seriously any attempt to threaten or limit artists' freedom of speech or of expression."