Film studio tells staff not to switch on computers or log on to corporate networks until security breach is investigated

The Sony Pictures hack, which has been linked to the premature release of several new films, may have been the handiwork of North Korea, after the country’s officials refused to deny its involvement.

The film studio has reportedly called in the FBI to investigate after being forced to temporarily shut up shop in the US after hackers seized control of its computer systems on Monday 24 November while threatening to release sensitive data about the firm.

A report on movie news site Deadline claims the firm’s staff were greeted by an onscreen message, after switching on their machines, telling them their computers had been compromised.

According to a Financial Times report, a slew of the company’s films have appeared on pirated film sites in the wake of last week’s hack, including the studio’s remake of Annie, World War 2 drama Fury and Mr. Turner.

The perpetrators – know as #GOP – previously warned the attack was just the beginning and their actions will continue until some unspecified demands are met.

If this doesn’t happen, the group threatened to release some of the company’s data, prompting speculation the premature release of these films is related to this threat.

“We already warned you, and this is just a beginning. We continue till our request be met (sic),” the onscreen message posted by the hackers said.

“We’ve obtained all of your internal data including your secrets and top secrets. If you don’t obey is, we’ll release the data…to the world.”

The film studio is effectively being held to ransom by #GOP, with staff being warned not to login to company networks or email systems until further notice.

The source of the attack has been linked in other reports to the forthcoming release of The Interview, a comedy that centres on an assasination plot involving North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The country has already complained to the United Nations about the film, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, and called for its release to be blocked on the grounds it constitutes the “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism.”

When asked about the Sony Pictures hack, a spokesperson for North Korea’s UN Mission is reported to have said by the BBC: “The hostile forces are relating to everything to the DPRK (North Korea). I kindly advise you to just wait and see.”

Resolving the attack

Another report on US entertainment site Variety claims the company’s staff have been told the problem could take anywhere between a day to three weeks to sort out, and – in the meantime – all staff must disable Wi-FI corporate devices and leave their computers switched off.

Sony has so far declined to confirm a hack has taken place, but has previously stated it is “investigating an IT matter.”

While the attack is not thought to have affected other parts of Sony’s business, it is certainly not the first time the company’s business units have found themselves under attack from hackers.

The firm’s Playstation Network was knocked offline earlier this year by a Distributed Denial of Service attack, while an earlier hack on the gaming platform in 2011 resulted in the firm being hit with a £250,000 fine by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

This story was initially published on 25 November, but has been subsequently updated to reflect details of the leaked films and the suspected source.

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