Sony hack updates: North Korea has more Internet outages
Dec 23, 2014 | 5:45 PM
The fallout from a cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment that was revealed Nov. 24 is continuing to reverberate. The hackers have released troves of Sony's data. Sony initially canceled the release of "The Interview," a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but on Tuesday announced a limited release. U.S. officials are blaming North Korea for the attack. You're reading previous coverage; click here for the latest updates.
Internet outages continued to plague North Korea on Tuesday, and speculation about the cause of the country's systemwide crash earlier in the day broadened to include a hacking group that hinted it was responsible.
Internet security analysts' speculation on the cause of a 9 1/2-hour crash focused on sources outside of government and included the possibility of North Korean officials taking down the network to protect it from any long-term damage or even a technical fault.
On Tuesday, the "hacktivist" group Lizard Squad proclaimed via Twitter that the shutdown of North Korea's Internet was "a piece of cake."
Analysts said the North Korean crash looked more like the work of technology vandals than a government action.
Theater owners said Tuesday that Sony Pictures Entertainment plans to release “The Interview” via video on demand as well as in theaters on Christmas Day, a move that could heighten tensions between cinema chains and the embattled studio.
Sony was “very up front and candid” about its plan, said Lance Alspaugh, chief executive of Vintage Cinemas, which operates two theaters in Los Feliz and one in San Diego.
“I'm not fond of it,” Alspaugh said. “But in this case, all bets are off.”
"The president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film,” Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, said Tuesday in a statement about “The Interview.” “As the president made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech and the right of artistic expression. The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film, and we welcome that outcome.”
Here's how to see 'The Interview' in Los Angeles
Want to see #TheInterview in LA? @laemmle will start screening it on 12/31 at their North Hollywood location.
“We have never given up on releasing 'The Interview' and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.”
“I want to thank our talent on 'The Interview' and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month. While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”
Several theaters say they'll screen 'The Interview'
Several theaters have begun announcing they will screen "The Interview."
Breaking news: Sony has authorized screenings of THE INTERVIEW on Christmas Day. We are making shows available within the hour. #Victory
Sony Pictures Entertainment called on Twitter to stop its users from tweeting information leaked in the hack of the studio’s computer systems, saying it will hold Twitter responsible for damages unless the company complies.
A Monday letter from lawyer David Boies, writing on Sony's behalf, requested that Twitter take action to prevent its people from accessing leaked Sony information and to arrange for the destruction of any copies of the information in its possession.
Boies sent a similar request last week to media outlets including the Los Angeles Times, aiming to block publication of the material.
Monday’s letter also requested that Twitter suspend the account @bikinirobotarmy, which has been posting screen shots of emails leaked in the hack, and any other accounts engaged in such activity.
North Korea went offline early Tuesday, according to companies that monitor global networks.
Researchers at Dyn, an Internet performance management company, began noticing increasing amounts of instability in North Korea’s connection over the weekend. At about 2 a.m. Tuesday, (9 a.m. Monday in Los Angeles), North Korea’s Internet connection went down, Dyn reported.
Other monitoring companies confirmed the outage but said it would be difficult or impossible to determine who pulled the switch.
The United States could have done it. North Korea may have done so itself, as a defensive move. There are also other possibilities.
An alliance of independent movie theaters says art house cinemas are willing to screen Sony Pictures' "The Interview," the Kim Jong Un assassination comedy that was pulled from release in the wake of terror threats.
Art House Convergence, which puts on an annual conference for independent cinemas, posted a petition and open letter to Sony on the website Change.org, expressing support for the studio.
The co-owner of Laemmle Theaters, which operates seven cinemas in Los Angeles County, signed the petition and said Monday that he would be open to playing "The Interview."
And "Game of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin has said his own small theater, the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, N.M., would "be glad" to screen the film, calling the decision to pull it "a stunning display of corporate cowardice."
China disclosed Monday that Foreign Minister Wang Yi had assured U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation the previous day that Beijing "opposes all forms of cyberattacks and cyber terrorism."
But ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying cautioned against "making any conclusions" about who was responsible for the Sony cyberattack before there has been a full accounting of the facts.
"China will handle it in accordance with relevant international and Chinese laws according to the facts," she told reporters in Beijing.
Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women
Sony has retained the services of crisis management expert Judy Smith and her firm, Smith & Co., to help the studio shape its messages amid the hacking crisis, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Smith is known as the inspiration for Olivia Pope, the Washington crisis expert played by Kerry Washington in Shonda Rhimes' hit ABC series.
She worked in the White House as the deputy press secretary for President George H.W. Bush before joining the private sector. Her high-profile clients have included Monica S. Lewinsky, NFL player Michael Vick and former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig.
North Korea’s defense department threatened Sunday to “blow up” the White House, the Pentagon and other U.S. targets if Washington launches an assault to retaliate for the cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
In a statement, it also asserted that the U.S. government was “deeply involved” in the making of the Sony film “The Interview.”
The North Korean National Defense Commission denied having ever launched cyberattacks on South Korea and again denied culpability for the Sony hacking, saying it was unaware of the hackers’ place of residence.
But it praised the Sony hackers’ “righteous deed,” saying the film was an incitement to terrorism and adding that the studio got into “serious trouble and paid a due price.”
Many hackers, anti-hackers and cybersecurity experts still don't share the FBI's conclusion that "the North Korean government is responsible for these actions," as the agency declared last week.
That's important for two main reasons: You don't want to stoke anger at a government that may be either innocent or peripherally involved (North Korea has denied responsibility for the Sony attack), and you don't want the real perpetrators to evade the law-enforcement net.
Emails reveal an intense back-and-forth over Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai's concerns about "The Interview."
In a June 23 email, a Sony executive in Japan sent word to the studio, writing that Hirai was "very much concerned about this film" and its potential for angering the North Korean government. Two days later, North Korea declared the film an "act of war."
"He really really hates it," Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures, wrote to a fellow studio executive Sept. 28. "He wants to say no he wants to say yes … he is deeply conflicted."
"Sony Pictures Entertainment is and always has been strongly committed to the First Amendment. For more than three weeks, despite brutal intrusions into our company and our employees’ personal lives, we maintained our focus on one goal: getting the film The Interview released. Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion.
The decision not to move forward with the December 25 theatrical release of The Interview was made as a result of the majority of the nation’s theater owners choosing not to screen the film. This was their decision.
Let us be clear – the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it. Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.
After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so."
Sony CEO Michael Lynton says he's open to video-on-demand release for 'The Interview'
Directors Guild of America statement: 'Unprecedented situation' should be 'rallying point'
Paris Barclay, the president of the Directors Guild of America, said the group hopes a "way can be found to distribute the film by some means, to demonstrate that our industry is not cowed by extremists of any type."
The statement marks the first time the guild or any other Hollywood union has made a public statement on the hacking. Hollywood studios and industry groups have been largely quiet so far, but the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the lobbying arm for the major studios, also put out a statement today calling the cyberattack on Sony Pictures "a despicable, criminal act."
Obama says no evidence North Korea didn't act alone, pledges response
Despite reports that fingered China as a possible accomplice to the hacking attack, Obama just said during his year-end news conference that "we have no indication that North Korea acted in conjunction with any other country."
He also pledged a response to North Korea, which the FBI earlier today blamed for the attack. He did not elaborate.
Obama, at end-of-year news conferences, pledges a response to the Sony hack but does not say what the U.S. will do to North Korea
The FBI on Friday blamed the government of North Korea for causing the cyber security breach of Sony Pictures Entertainment that has cost the company tens of millions of dollars.
Though experts had previously pointed to North Korea as the source of the breach and U.S. intelligence officials had quietly confirmed that assessment, the announcement is the first official U.S. acknowledgment that the North Korean government was involved in stealing Sony emails, leaking unreleased movies and destroying other computer records.
The Rev. Al Sharpton on Thursday said that "the jury is still out on where we go" with embattled Sony Pictures Entertainment co-Chairman Amy Pascal, who came under pressure after a cyberattack exposed her racially tinged email exchanges with a Hollywood producer. But Sharpton did not call for Pascal to step down.
Sharpton met with Pascal for 90 minutes Thursday at a Manhattan hotel where they agreed to set up a "working group" to deal with racial bias and the lack of diversity in the film industry.
The events surrounding the Sony Pictures cyber attack are developing fast. Sony Pictures Entertainment's extraordinary decision to scrap the Christmas release of "The Interview" came amid mounting pressure from powerful theater owners and other studios concerned that the film's release could keep moviegoers away from multiplexes during the holidays, one of the most lucrative periods for Hollywood.
The action came as U.S. intelligence officials confirmed widespread speculation that the North Korean government was behind the devastating cyberattack, which has hobbled Sony Pictures and spread fear throughout the entertainment industry. "The Interview" depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
I think every business has the right to do whatever they want, but when — en masse — all of these businesses decide not to present a movie, they're basically setting themselves up for other people to threaten them. What do they do when someone says the same thing about the James Bond movie or 'Annie'?
There are few things Hollywood loves more than a good villain. But any uproar in the past has easily been eclipsed by the continuing fallout from Sony Pictures Entertainment's now-shelved comedy "The Interview," about a fictional assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The United States government takes “very seriously any attempt to threaten or limit artists’ freedom of speech or of expression,” and it’s “considering a range of options in weighing a potential response” to the cyberattack on Sony, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Wednesday night.
Here is the full statement:
“The U.S. government closely monitors all reports of breaches affecting U.S. companies, U.S. consumers, and U.S. infrastructure. We know that criminals and foreign countries regularly seek to gain access to government and private sector networks – both in the United States and elsewhere.
“The U.S. government has offered Sony Pictures Entertainment support and assistance in response to the attack. The FBI has the lead for the investigation. The United States is investigating attribution and will provide an update at the appropriate time. The U.S. government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice, and we are considering a range of options in weighing a potential response.
“We are aware of Sony’s announcement regarding ‘The Interview.’ The United States respects artists' and entertainers' right to produce and distribute content of their choosing. The U.S. government has no involvement in such decisions. We take very seriously any attempt to threaten or limit artists’ freedom of speech or of expression.”
'No further release plans' for 'The Interview'
Sony Pictures Entertainment has "no further release plans" for "The Interview," according to a studio spokesman. That means the company has no plans to release the film via video on-demand or DVD.
North Korea behind cyber attack on Sony Pictures
North Korea is believed to be behind the cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, according to senior U.S. officials.
More to come...
Sony pulls 'The Interview' -- Full statement
Full statement from Sony Pictures Entertainment: "In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.
Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."
Sony has canceled the Christmas release of “The Interview” after the major theater chains said they would not screen the film. The studio said “we respect and understand our partners decision” and “completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”
The nation’s top theater chains have scrapped plans to show the North Korean-themed film “The Interview” after hackers threatened movie goes on Tuesday. Regal, AMC and Cinemark on Wednesday all dropped the controversial movie from their lineups, and the chains have also asked Sony to postpone the release date of the controversial film. New York-based Bow Tie Cinemas also said Wednesday it was scrapping plans to screen the Sony comedy at its 55 movie theaters.
Facing threats of physical violence against moviegoers, some theaters have decided to not show the Kim Jong Un assassination-plot comedy “The Interview.” Landmark Theatres canceled Thursday's New York premiere of "The Interview" at Sunshine Cinema, and Carmike Cinemas, the nation’s fourth-largest exhibitor, scrapped its plans to show the movie.
The moves come amid heightened anxiety within Sony Pictures Entertainment and Hollywood overall as hackers who have wreaked havoc on the studio for over three weeks have warned patrons to stay away from theaters that show “The Interview” when it opens on Christmas Day. Sony has also been hit with two lawsuits on behalf of current and former employees who say the company did not do enough to protect workers from cyber attacks.
Hackers who crippled Sony Pictures Entertainment three weeks ago have made their demands clear: Don’t show “The Interview.” Tuesday’s threat against movie theaters that show the movie puts Sony in a “no-win situation,” writes The Times’ Steven Zeitchik. “Show the film and Sony appears irresponsible, pull it and Sony appears bully-able,” he says. The company may be able to find a solution, though -- a video-on-demand release.
An online message from the purported hacking group Guardians of Peace have made a new threat, warning people not to see the new Kim Jong Un assassination comedy "The Interview" and promising to attack movie theaters. "We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places 'The Interview' be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to," the group said. "Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)"
The long-expected legal strikes against Sony have begun. A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Sony Pictures on behalf of current and former employees. The complaint, filed late Monday in a federal court in Los Angeles, accused the company of not taking adequate measures to protect workers' confidential information from potential cyber criminals. The two lead plaintiffs are former employees of Sony.
Sony “failed to secure its computer systems, servers and databases, despite weaknesses that it has known about for years" and "subsequently failed to timely protect confidential information of its current and former employees from law-breaking hackers," the plaintiffs' lawyers wrote in the complaint. "Put simply, Sony knew about the risks it took with its past and current employees’ data," the suit said. "Sony gambled, and its employees — past and current — lost."
The major Hollywood studios, conspicuously silent for three weeks following the assault on Sony, have finally voiced their support for their beset competitor. The studios' lobbying arm, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, expressed support for Sony as it tries to recover from the hack. The statement was brief: "Sony Pictures is not just a valued member of our association family, but they are friends and colleagues and we feel for them," the MPAA said. "We continue to be in constant touch with their leadership and will be of any assistance to them that we can." MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd and Sony Pictures Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton worked for a week to craft a letter of solidarity from Sony's peers, but that effort met resistance.
Al Sharpton said he might not be ready just yet to forgive Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal about her racially insensitive emails about President Barack Obama. In fact, the civil rights leaders said he still might be calling for her resignation. “Right now, Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher up it goes, the whiter it looks,” Sharpton told website TMZ on Monday. “I don’t know who’s behind the hack, but I know what I read on the hack. And I’m going to give her a lot of heck about the hack.”
The major hack on Sony exposed hacked emails between the studio executive and producer Scott Rudin, in which they joked about what movies President Obama might enjoy such as “Django Unchained,” “The Butler,” and “12 Years a Slave.” Both later apologized for the remarks. “I was very offended by the emails that were hacked,” Sharpton said. “We’ll determine there whether we are going to join calls for her resignation or whether she is really, seriously going to deal with the fact that Hollywood really reflects a lot of what was said in the conversation.” He said a meeting has been scheduled for this month with Pascal, along with the Urban League’s Mark Morial and the NAACP’s Cornell Brooks.
Rogen didn't know the 'ramifications' of 'The Interview'
It's been widely reported that the Sony Pictures hackers have demanded the studio pull its Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy "The Interview," which depicts a fictionalized assassination attempt on North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. The film's stars have done little to bat down those perceptions. On Monday, Rogen told "Good Morning America's" George Stephanopoulos that the satire “wasn’t meant to be controversial in any way.”
"I can't definitively say I know the ramifications of the storm. I mean, I don't know if the hacking honestly is because of our movie, definitively or not," said Rogen, who also co-directed the film. "It is weird because we just wanted to make a really funny, entertaining movie and the movie itself is very silly…it was really just meant to be entertaining.”
Sony may have got financing proposal from Middle East princes
Bloomberg News dug up an email, released by the hackers, that shows Sony Pictures was pitched with a $7 billion financing offer from a group possibly tied to Middle East royalty. The investors are said to have offered $6 billion in debt and equity to fund Sony film production, and the plan would have involved a $1 billion stock purchase. Sony execs were intrigued, but the unusual deal never materialized, Bloomberg reported.