Though Sony Pictures had known for months that North Korea was not pleased with the subject of its upcoming film “The Interview,” it wasn’t until late November that mayhem broke out, as executives received an ominous threat asking for money three days before employees’ computers went down. It was just the beginning of an attack unprecedented in corporate history.
North Korea promises “decisive and merciless countermeasure” if “the U.S. administration tacitly approves or supports” the Dec. 25 release of Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy “The Interview,” about a plot to kill Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Sony’s computer and email systems are paralyzed after skulls and ominous messages appear on employees’ computer screens. The studio is nearly brought to a halt over Thanksgiving week.
At least five unreleased Sony movies including “Annie,” “Fury” and “Still Alice” appear on file-sharing sites. Sony investigates evidence, including the fact that some tactics employed in the hack are similar to those linked to North Korea. Speculation grows that the takedown could be related to “The Interview.”
Email and some critical business systems are restored at the studio, while the FBI investigates. Information leaks begin, with Fusion.net posting salary data for top executives including Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal.
Other studios examine their security measures as a North Korean official advises people to “wait and see” if the nation is behind the leaks. More information is released, including employees’ Social Security numbers. Lynton and Pascal tell staff they are “deeply saddened” that confidential data may be exposed.
Budget and salary information for “The Interview” stars and talent, including Seth Rogen and James Franco, comes to light. A North Korean diplomat denies his government is behind the attacks.
The crisis reaches a new level as the hackers send emails threatening employees, and say they plan to “eradicate” all of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Profitability calculations for Sony films such as “This Is the End” are released.
North Korea’s state news agency reports the country’s National Defense Commission says it is not behind the attacks. However, it calls the hacking “a righteous deed” that may have been carried out by its supporters.
Media reports link the attack to DarkSeoul, a group with suspected ties to North Korea said to have carried out the attack through computers in Bangkok.
A new letter from the Guardians of Peace implies Sony should stop the release of “The Interview,” and threatens the privacy of executives. Lynton tells staffers that the FBI will brief employees on the attack on Dec. 10, while new documents released reveal more confidential information on stars, such as Brad Pitt. Meanwhile, an email three days before the initial attack surfaces, sent to Amy Pascal and other top executives, asking for payment in broken English.