FBI warns theatres, other businesses linked to movie The Interview of cyber attacks

Movie posters for the premiere of the film The Interview at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on Dec 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Movie posters for the premiere of the film The Interview at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California on Dec 11, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

BOSTON (REUTERS) - The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released a warning advising theatres and other businesses associated with Sony Corp's Hollywood studio's film, The Interview, that they could be targeted in cyber attacks.

The private document, which was obtained by Reuters, said that "anyone associated with the production, distribution and promotion" of the film "could possibly become the target of cyberattacks".

US investigators had determined that North Korea was behind the cyber attack on Sony Corp's computers, US government sources said on Wednesday. One of the sources described the attack as “state-sponsored” and several sources said that North Korea was the government involved.

The Obama administration was debating internally whether to make a public announcement of the investigators’ findings, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

CNN, however, reported that an announcement pinning the blame on hackers working for Pyongyang could come as soon as Thursday.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the film from its planned Dec 25 release after top US movie theatre chains cancelled plans to show it in the wake of a devastating hack at the Hollywood studio and threats on Tuesday of further attacks if it were shown.

The hackers, who call themselves Guardians of Peace ( GOP), have demanded that Sony stop the release of the comedy which depicts a fictional CIA plot to kill North Korea’s leader. 

North Korea has denied involvement in the brazen cyber-attack, but praised it as a “righteous deed” potentially orchestrated by supporters furious over the movie.

The White House National Security Council (NSC) said the FBI was leading the investigation on the cyber attack on Sony Pictures and that the US government had offered the company support and assistance.

“The United States is investigating attribution and will provide an update at the appropriate time,” the NSC said in a statement.

The NSC said the government was “working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice, and we are considering a range of options in weighing a potential response.”

Commenting on Sony’s decision to pull the release of the movie, the NSC said: “The United States respects artists’ and entertainers’ right to produce and distribute content of their choosing. The US government has no involvement in such decisions.

“We take very seriously any attempt to threaten or limit artists’ freedom of speech or of expression,” it added.

Leaks of unpublished scripts, internal emails

In addition to the threats, an early version of the script for the new James Bond film was also stolen by hackers, BBC reported.

The producers of Spectre said the screenplay was taken as part of a cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November.

In a statement on the film's official website, Eon Productions said they were concerned the script may be published online. Spectre is due to be released in November 2015.

Sony has also seen the release of a trove of highly unflattering internal emails and other internal communications, including information about salaries, employee health records and other personal information.