(Pocket-lint) - Sony Pictures Entertainment was the victim of devastating cyber attack in late November and early December that involved the release of stolen data including multiple yet-to-be-released films and personal employee information like social security numbers and salaries.
If that's not crazy enough, malware might also destroyed sensitive data on Sony's systems. And now it's been confirmed by US officials that North Korea orchestrated the hack, simply because Kim Jong-un didn't like Seth Rogen's upcoming film The Interview.
Want to know why North Korea is starting a cyberwar and what else might have been leaked? All the details are below.
When did it happen?
Sony Pictures Entertainment employees arrived at work on 24 November, then sat at their desks like normal, and turned on their computers. It was a typical Monday morning, until their computer screens flashed a rather creepy image of red skull with a warning.
"We've already warned you, and this is just a beginning. We will continue until our request be met, " the image claimed. "We've obtained all your internal data including your secrets and top secrets. If you don't obey us, we'll release data shown below to the world."
If that wasn't ominous enough, Sony's Twitter account was also hacked. The account had posted a second image depicting the CEO of Sony Pictures (Michael Lynton) in hell, and many viewed this as proof that the cyber attack was (and is) real.
Who is responsible for the hack?
The hack is being described as a blackmail attempt and has been linked to a group calling itself Guardians of Peace (GOP), Bloomberg reported, citing an anonymous source. One interview with someone purportedly from GOP said they had been stealing data from Sony for a year.
Sony Pictures employees first became aware of the hack on that Monday, though it is unclear when the hack actually began. News of the hack only made headlines when someone claiming to be a former Sony employee posted a discussion note on Reddit, along with an image of the skull.
The former employee added in a comment that current employees told him their email systems were down, and that in an attempt to prevent more damage, Sony administrators were shutting down its worldwide network and disabling VPN connections and Wi-Fi access.
Is North Korea involved at all?
UPDATE: CNN has reported - citing US investigators and law enforcement sources - that "hackers working for North Korea" and the Pyongang regime were behind the Sony hack. An official announcement from President Obama was expected by 18 December.
Before we go over North Korea's involvement, let's discuss The Interview. It's an upcoming film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as journalists working with the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korean officials are reportedly upset with the film's plot, and a government official told North Korean state media last summer that the film is a "blatant act of terrorism and war" and would lead to "merciless" retaliation from the country if ever released.
In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last June, North Korea's UN envoy said allowing the film to be made/seen constitutes "the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as a war action". Shortly after, Sony Pictures delayed The Interview from its October premiere.
Needless to say, all eyes were on North Korea when Sony became aware of the hack. Both Reuters and NBC News reported that several US government agencies, including the FBI, are investigating the hack and North Korea's involvement.
Although North Korea has denied any involvement in the attack, and even issued strong statements declaring that it follows the "international norms" of banning hacking and piracy, according to Reuters, evidence has physically linked North Korea to the Sony hack.
Security companies like AlienVault are currently examining the malware code - which the FBI has released - used in the attack against Sony. Jaime Blasco, the director of AlienVault, found some of the code was written in Korean, indicating North Korea was involved.
Re/code has reported that Sony is investigating North Korea's involvement and whether the country staged the attack from China.
What was leaked during the attack?
The hackers claim to have stolen about 100 terabytes of sensitive data from Sony, and they've already leaked five Sony films online for free through file-sharing websites. The films include Fury, a Brad Pitt war picture released in October, and Annie, which opens on 19 December.
Three other films, called Still Alice, Mr. Turner, and To Write Love on Her Arms, have yet to be widely released but were among the leaked films. It is assumed the devastating attack will negatively affect the films' box office take as well as Sony's bottom line.
It's also been reported that the script for an unreleased pilot by Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, was leaked. It's worth noting that The Interview has yet to be included in any of the leaks, which are currently releasing online in batches.
An early version of the script for Spectre, the next James Bond film, has also surfaced. MGM and Danjaq own the rights to the script however, marking the first time a studio apart from Sony has been affected by the hack.
UPDATE: Emails between The Interview's creators (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) and Sony executives leaked online, revealing that Sony demanded the creators reduce the gore depicted in the film. More specifically, the gore in Kim Jong-un's death scene, Gawker reported.
Apart from the films, internal documents containing Sony Pictures employees' personal information were leaked. The documents included the names, titles, salaries, and social security numbers of more than 6,000 Sony Pictures employees, including top executives.
Seventeen executives make over $1 million per year, the documents revealed. Amy Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures, makes $3 million a year, as does the CEO. And according to Bloomberg, the documents even revealed how much Seth Rogen and James Franco made for The Interview.
Seth Rogen, who co-wrote and co-directed and stars in the film, made more than $8.4 million, while James Franco received $6.5 million for co-starring. The film's prop budget list was also among the leaked documents, Reuters reported, and it included a "table of weed, coke, pills and panties" for $241.