Sony Pictures is now investigating the possibility that North Korea was behind the Nov. 24 hacking attack according to Re/code, a technology news website with insider sources. Late in the day on Nov. 28 they reported that Sony and outside security consultants are exploring the possibility that North Korea followed through on a threat made against the movie company. The cyber attack paralyzed the company’s computer network, email and phone systems globally. Sony has stated that it might take up to three weeks to have the network back up and functioning.
On Nov. 28 fuel was added to speculation fires when Uriminzokkiri, a website run by the North Korean government, again expressed indignation and outrage over the upcoming release of a Sony movie, “The Interview.” They said that releasing the film would be “an evil act of provocation” that deserved “stern punishment” and “merciless retaliation” against the company. “The Interview” is a satirical comedy about two journalists, Seth Rogen and James Franco, who receive an invitation to personally interview the reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Upon hearing about the interview the CIA recruits the duo and asks them to assassinate the dictator.
The country first expressed its ire in June through a strongly worded letter that North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Ja Song Nam wrote to the United Nations’ Secretary-General professing that the movie was an act of terrorism. “To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.” The letter contains demands that production should be stopped and distribution banned.
Did North Korea hack Sony? Since the cyber attack, five new movies from Sony Pictures have been posted to copyright-infringing file-sharing hubs online. They include Brad Pitt’s World War II movie “Fury” and the widely-anticipated musical re-make of “Annie” which will be released on Dec. 19. The pirated version of “Fury” has been downloaded more than 1.2 million times since its theft and “Annie” has reached almost one-quarter million downloads.
These illegal downloads will eventually hurt Sony Pictures’ bottom line in terms of resale value and ticket sales. The stolen copies are watermarked and experts believe the multi-title leak is likely related to the hacking. “The Interview” has not yet been spotted on any movie pirating sites. Sony has responded with this statement. “The theft of Sony Pictures Entertainment content is a criminal matter, and we are working closely with law enforcement to address it.”
The theory that North Korea is responsible for the breach fits with part of the original demands that were displayed on Sony Pictures’ computer screens: “We’ve already warned you, and this is just a beginning,” the message read. “We continue till our request be met…. If you don’t obey us, we’ll release data shown below to the world.” Sony has refused to comment on any prior warnings received by corporate executives or if there has been any internal communication with the hackers since Nov. 25. Is it a coincidence that we have discovered North Korea’s warnings about “The Internet” which will be released in exactly one month?
However other parts of the original demand letter do not jive with a foreign attack. They appear to be much closer to the core of the company. Part of the demands asked for equality. “Sony doesn’t. It’s an upward battle,” the posting said. However what equality means has not yet been explained. Could it link to the fact that in the last year Sony Pictures laid off hundreds of people to lower expenses and streamline the organization?
Originally experts speculated that internal disgruntled employees were working with #GOP, the group claiming responsibility for the attack. Leading credibility was one hacker that contacted media stating, “Sony doesn’t lock their doors, physically, so we worked with other staff with similar interests to get in… Im sorry I can’t say more, safety for our team is important [sic].”
The hacker’s message included a threat to release secrets and top secrets of the company. On Nov 25 a file was released itemizing some of the documents #GOP said it had in their possession. However none of those documents have been posted to an internet website such as Reddit where the original message was also posted. Apparently until Sony Pictures or the hackers issue another statement the public remains in the dark, speculations will abound and Sony gets millions of dollars in free publicity and hype for “The Interview.”