Sony hackers issue threat in latest message: 'The world will be full of fear'

Hackers invoke Sept. 11 attacks in latest email message, adding: 'All the world will denounce the SONY'

The hacking group behind the Sony cyber security attack has made its first physical threat.

In a message sent at around 9:30 a.m., the group -- calling itself Guardians of Peace -- issued a warning along with what appears to be files related to Sony Pictures CEO and Chairman Michael Lynton.

"We will clearly show it [our Christmas gift] 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 hackers wrote.

The hackers also invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, urging people to keep themselves "distant from the places at that time."

"The world will be full of fear," they wrote. "Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY."

Sony did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department also did not have immediate comment.

Hackers began releasing sensitive data after the studio's security breach became public on Nov. 24. The group has released data including thousands of pages of emails from studio chiefs, salaries of top executives and Social Security numbers of 47,000 current and former employees.

The releases include thousands of emails from the studio's co-chairman, Amy Pascal. Some have included exchanges with producer Scott Rudin over whether President Obama prefers black-themed films such as "The Butler." Pascal and Rudin have apologized for their remarks.

Federal officials are taking seriously the possibility that North Korea could be behind the attack and that the hack was done in retaliation for the film "The Interview." The Seth Rogen- and Evan Goldberg-directed film is about an attempt to kill North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Un. In June, North Korea called on the U.S. government to block the film's release or face a "decisive and merciless countermeasure."

In an email statement to the Times on Tuesday, a FBI spokeswoman said: "The FBI is aware of recent threats and continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate the Sony attack." 

Ralph Echemendia, chief executive of cyber security firm Red E-Digital, said that he’s unaware of any other instance in which hackers “threatened large-scale physical violence.”

“This now borders on terrorist activity and would define the Guardians of Peace as a terrorist group,” said Echemendia, who has previously consulted for Sony Corp. on cyber security issues.

The film held a low-key premiere at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles last week. A strong security presence sternly guided attendees around the event. Reporters were also told there would be no interviews on the carpet.

The New York premiere is scheduled for Thursday at a Lower East Side bar before a screening at Sunshine Cinema. 

In an interview conducted with Rogen and Goldberg a week before the hacking, the co-directors said serious potential repercussions -- beyond the initial protest from North Korea -- seemed far-fetched.

"When they say, 'we declare war on this movie' and all that, nothing is for us," Goldberg said. "It's all for their people to see."

Rogen added, "It's all for show."

The film is expected to hit theaters on Christmas Day.

Ted Mundorff, CEO of Landmark Theatres, which owns Sunshine Cinema, said they are moving ahead as planned.

“First of all, we won’t comment about security. We will be properly prepared for any incidents," he said. "If Sony changes their mind... I haven’t heard from [Homeland Security] but I don’t know that anyone in the organization hasn’t.”

Times staff writers Amy Kaufman, Daniel Miller, Ryan Faughnder and Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

11:24 a.m.: This post has been updated with comments from Ralph Echemendia and excerpts from an earlier interview with "The Interview" directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

12:40 p.m.: This post has been updated with a statement from the FBI.

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