Sony Cyber Attack : Timeline of Events Leading Up to ‘The Interview’ Release
Seth Rogen and James Franco’s new comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un was the most prominent piece of geopolitical news of the past month. A group of hackers had wreaked havoc on Sony Pictures; they threatened a 9/11 style attack if the movie was allowed to release. Heeding to concerns raised by several theatre chains, the company said that it won’t object if the chains choose not to screen the movie. That move brought in comments from all sides of the spectrum, from severe criticism for being anti-free speech to support for ensuring the safety of moviegoers. After many hassles, Sony has finally released the movie on multiple platforms.
We trace out the bizarre course of events that finally led to the film’s release.
On June 11: the first trailer of The Interview releases online. Following this, on June 25, North Korea issues a tough response to the trailer calling it “an act of war” and said there will be a “merciless response”, if the movie was allowed to release.
November 24: the employees of Sony Pictures, across the country, received a shock in the morning when they saw all their computers were compromised. There was just one message on the screen that said that the system was hacked by Guardians of Peace or #GOP. They said they have taken all the data hostage and would release it if their demands were not met; it wasn’t sure at the time what the demands were. They claimed to have stolen up to 100 terabytes of data. Sony calls it an IT issue and says the company is looking into it.
A week after the attack, the first wave of release started to show up. The hackers release four movies online before the release dates. These films soon found their way on torrent sites. Soon after this, hackers released the salaries and social security details of former and current employees.
Coming to the start of December, the story takes a nasty turn when the hackers start releasing stolen emails. It takes a teenage gossip mode when details of various conversations between Sony executives and others start leaking out. The leak that Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal called Angelina Jolie “a spoilt brat” lead to an awkward moment when they met. Amy’s emails also saw racially tainted discussion about the American president.
December 4: We get news that North Korea might be one of the suspects in the case. The hermit kingdom denies any involvement. But its involvement seems to get more evident when the hackers call for a stop on the release of The Interview, calling it a movie of terrorism. This further strengthened the idea of North Korea’s involvement.
December 6: The incident starts taking the shape of terrorism when multiple employees of Sony Pictures start receiving threatening emails. Some days later the hackers comment saying that they are about to offer a Christmas gift for the people, which consists of more leaked data.
December 15: The frustration starts to grow in the entertainment industry against the leak. This follows the release of the draft of the new James Bond Movie ‘Spectre’. Academy Award winning writer Aaron Sorkin scolds the media in an op-ed in the New York Times for reporting using stolen data. Brad Pitt also joins to condemn the media calling it an assault on privacy and comments saying that they are profiting by colluding with terrorists.
December 16: the most inflammatory threat comes from the group. They threaten a 9/11-style attack on cinemagoers if The Interview is allowed to release; this spooks a lot of cinema chains in the country. Sony also gets slapped with a class action suit by former employees who blame the company for not being vigilant with their data.
December 17: Other studios start claiming that the GOP attack and subsequent threats might deter other moviegoers from coming to the theatre thereby dampening the profit making holiday season for everyone.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”Barack Obama” author_title=”President, United States of America”]
We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States.
December 18: The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that it is ready to link North Korea with the attack. Sony finally pulls the plug on The Interview, which also leads Seth Rogen and James Franco to cancel further promotional events for the movie. Sony also cancels DVD and VOD of the movie. This results in widespread criticism of the company, many saying that it has bowed down to terrorists subsequently encouraging them and defeating the bedrock of democracy.
December 19: US authority officially links North Korea with the attack. President Obama says Sony “made a mistake” in pulling back the movie saying, “We will respond proportionately and in a space, time and manner that we choose.” He also added, “We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States.”
December 24: Google and Microsoft get in talks with Sony to release the movie on their platform. Independent theatre owners too join in the release, but the big chains still stay a safe distance away.
The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) December 23, 2014
December 25: The movie is released on Google Play and YouTube movies. Seth Rogen tweets saying “…Freedom has prevailed!…” As soon as the movie hits the internet ,it is on the torrent sites and is downloaded massively. But the reviews for the movie are mixed.
Middle section of #TheInterview was entirely too long – Flick does have some GREAT moments but there are so many jokes that fall flat. 2.5/5
— Kevin McCarthy (@KevinMcCarthyTV) December 26, 2014
Just watched #TheInterview . My critical faculties might not be as sharp as Kim Jong Un’s but I thought it was super funny.
— Jonathan Ross (@wossy) December 25, 2014
It is a bit unsettling though that one of the biggest movie studios in the world was brought to its knees after this attack. It has been said that the company would need millions of dollars and may take years to recover from this attack. One thing is true though that this was an act of terror and if Sony did back down, as it was planning to, it could have set a precedent for other criminals to follow. It took the reassurance of the President of the United States to get the movie out to the public.
This incident has forced other major institutions to strengthen the security of their digital infrastructure. This hack has shown that in our present world, information is power, and your own data can be used against you. The technology sector should now put more focus on prevention of cyber-attacks and there is a need for training more professionals in cyber security. It’s time for the nerds to lead the war.