N. Korea suspected of hacking attack on Sony Pictures: reports

November 30, 2014
Scenes from "The Interview."

Scenes from “The Interview.”

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — Sony Pictures suspects hackers working on behalf of North Korea disabled its computer network in reprisal for the studio’s impending release of a comedy film about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, news reports said.

The hacking attack occurred on Monday, locking Sony Pictures employees out of their computers entirely and forcing them to resort to pen and paper to do their jobs, according to the technology news site Re/code and the Los Angeles Times.

Before they went dark, computer screens displayed a red skull and the phrase “Hacked By #GOP”, which reportedly stands for “Guardians of Peace,” as well as a message that threatened to release sensitive data supposedly stolen from Sony servers if certain demands were not met, according to the reports.

The attack came about a month before the release of “The Interview,” which tells the story of two American journalists who land an interview with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang but are then recruited by the CIA to kill him.

Sony and outside security consultants are actively exploring the theory that the hack may have been carried out by third parties operating out of China on North Korea’s behalf, Re/code reported, citing unidentified sources. The sources were quoted as saying that a link to North Korea has yet to be confirmed, but has not been ruled out, either.

Sony issued a statement saying it experienced a system disruption and is working diligently to resolve it.

The movie is scheduled to be released in the U.S. and Canada on Dec. 25 before hitting the screens in European, Middle Eastern and African countries early next year. South Korea was not mentioned among the 63 countries to screen the film.

The film had originally been scheduled to be released in October, but the release date was postponed in August following strong protests from North Korea. Sony was also reported to have made some alterations, including removing some images of the North’s leader and his late father from the movie.

Pyongyang’s foreign ministry denounced the movie as “the most undisguised terrorism” and “a war action” and warned of “a strong and merciless countermeasure” if the “U.S. administration connives at and patronizes the screening of the film.”

On Friday, the North’s propaganda website, Uriminzokkiri, condemned the film.

“The plot to screen the film embellished with complete distortion of reality and bizarre imagination is an act of evil provocation on our republic and an unbearable insult to our people,” it said. “The U.S. is an evil empire that deserves divine punishment.”