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The FBI said Monday that it is investigating a computer hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment that has forced the studio to shut down its email and other systems and might have also led to some movies being leaked for piracy online.
“The FBI is working with our interagency partners to investigate the recently reported cyber intrusion at Sony Pictures Entertainment,” the agency said in a statement on Monday. “The targeting of public and private sector computer networks remains a significant threat, and the FBI will continue to identify, pursue and defeat individuals and groups who pose a threat in cyberspace.”
The hacking of Sony began about a week ago when a group called Guardians of Peace, or #GOP for short, gained access to the studio’s system and arranged for a bizarre image and poorly worded text to appear on the computer screens of employees.
“We’ve already warned you, and this is just a beginning,” read a portion of the message, which was laid atop an image of a human skeleton. “We continue till our request be met. We’ve obtained all your Internet data including your secrets and top secrets. If you don’t obey us, we’ll release data shown below to the world.”
Over Thanksgiving weekend, several Sony movies appeared at piracy websites, though it is not yet known if #GOP is responsible. The titles included Fury, which is out now and stars Brad Pitt; Annie, which opens Dec. 19; and To Write Love on Her Arms, which won’t be released until next year.
Since the original cyber attack, several conspiracy theories have been floated, including one suggesting that Sony faked the incident to promote an upcoming movie, though that implausible notion has surely been put to rest with the involvement of the FBI.
Also, the studio is reportedly investigating the possibility that Sony has been hacked in retaliation to the upcoming movie, The Interview, a comedy that stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as CIA recruits who are assigned the task of assassinating North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. The Sony movie opens on Christmas day and it has already drawn a harsh rebuke from the North Korean government, which called it an “evil act of provocation.” A government website also threatened the filmmakers behind The Interview with “stern punishment.”
The FBI’s confirmation that it is conducting an investigation comes just hours after several journalists, including some at The Hollywood Reporter, received mysterious emails saying that #GOP was, in fact, responsible for leaking Sony movies to the Internet. The emails promised more Sony data will be distributed over the Internet soon.
The Hollywood Reporter has attempted to reach out to alleged members of #GOP, though unsuccessfully. An alleged member going by the name “lena,” though, cryptically explained the group’s motivation to The Verge: “We want equality. Sony doesn’t. It’s an uphill battle,” lena said in an email to The Verge.
Lena also was vague as to how the group gained access to Sony’s system, though he or she suggested some help might have come from a studio employee.
“Sony doesn’t lock their doors. physically, so we worked with other staff with similar interests to get in. I’m sorry I can’t say more, safety for our team is important,” read the email from lena.
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