Latest Sony plot twist – hacker group demands block on release of The Interview

9 Dec 2014

If this was a Hollywood script itself it would be dynamite – but Sony isn’t laughing. Hacker group Guardians of Peace has demanded that Sony stop the upcoming release of the movie The Interview.

The group has also released more internal data from Sony Pictures on GitHub.

The Interview is a comedy about to be released by Sony Pictures starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. The movie plot follows a hapless TV star and producer who, having been granted an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, are tasked by the CIA to “take him out”.

As you would expect, the prospect of such a movie didn’t impress anyone in Pyongyang.

In recent weeks, Guardians of Peace claimed responsibility for a massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures that took its entire ICT network offline, resulted in the theft and distribution of five new movies, including Annie and Fury, and resulted in the exposure online of celebrity data, internal memos and more than 47,000 social security numbers.

In all, the group is now onto its fourth release of internal data gleaned from Sony employees’ computers.

Sony hired FireEye’s Mandiant forensics group to investigate the attack. Mandiant’s chief executive Kevin Mandia in an email told the head of Sony Pictures Michael Lynton, “The bottom line is that this was an unparalleled and well-planned crime, carried out by an organised group, for which neither SPE (Sony Pictures Entertainment) nor other companies could have been fully prepared.”

North Korea has denied it has any links with Guardians of Peace but described the act as “a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathisers”.

North Korea is suspected of being behind the attack because the code Guardians of Peace used to infiltrate Sony Pictures’ servers is identical to code North Korean hackers used to attack South Korea last year.

Guardians of Peace deny threats against Sony employees

Despite the extent of its attack on Sony’s servers and intellectual property, Guardians of Peace in a letter received by Sony Pictures on Monday has distanced itself from an email that threatens Sony staffers and their families.

“We know nothing about the threatening email received by Sony staffers, but you should wisely judge by yourself why such things are happening and who is responsible for it,” it said in a letter posted on GitHub.

“We have already given our clear demand to the management team of Sony, however, they have refused to accept.”

The attacks against Sony occurred two weeks ago. The company first realised what had happened when its entire computer network was down.

The attacker posted images online, alleging he or she was a former employee and had sensitive financial data.

A post has appeared in the /r/ hacking thread on Reddit by a person claiming to be a former Sony Pictures employee and claiming credit for the attack. A screenshot emblazoned with the words ‘Hacked By #GOP’ was also posted in the Reddit thread.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years