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Sony Pictures data breach update: Hackers threaten film premiere

The New York opening of Sony Pictures' upcoming comedy The Interview was canceled after threats emerged from the attackers responsible for its recent data breach.

Sony Pictures Entertainment canceled the New York opening of its soon-to-be-released comedy The Interview after hackers delivered vague warnings that movie theaters showing the film would be a target.

The hackers behind this new threat also claimed to be responsible for Sony's recent data breach, which forced the company to take thousands of systems offline and resulted in the leak of five unreleased films from the firm's entertainment arm. A spokesperson for Landmark Theatres, a subsidiary of Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment Inc., the host company for the film's Thursday opening, confirmed to news agency Reuters that the event has been canceled, but did not elaborate on why.

"We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time," the hackers wrote, reminding potential attendees of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that struck targets within the U.S. "(If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)"

The premier cancellation comes as movie theater chain Carmike Cinemas also told Reuters that the company would not be screening The Interview at any of its nearly 300 locations across the U.S. Sony executives previously informed theater operators that they would not object to such cancellations.

Sony Pictures hack reveals MPAA tactics

Beyond film cancellations, the Sony breach also revealed information that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is exploring legal justification for new antipiracy procedures. According to tech news site The Verge, which obtained documents stolen from Sony, the MPAA is seeking to provide Internet service providers with the ability to block connections to IP addresses known to be infringing copyrights by targeting the Domain Name System (DNS).

If users were to type in the DNS name for a well-known host for pirated content such as, for instance, an IPS like Comcast would be responsible for denying the connection. However, users would still be able to connect to such sites by typing in an IP address directly.

David Nathans, a product and solution security officer for Siemens Healthcare who formerly headed the cleanup efforts at TJX after that firm's massive breach, said that Sony was likely in the midst of what he described as a "chaotic buzz" -- hundreds of voices all trying to figure out what has happened and how to effectively close the holes opened by the company's breach. In such situations, Nathans said it's vital that organizations remain calm and open clear lines of communication and that leaders are established to determine the next steps in the cleanup process.

Such steps are perhaps more necessary for Sony than other companies that have been subjected to large-scale breaches in recent years, Nathans added, because the Japan-based conglomerate has been struck by attackers several times in the past and seemingly has never taken even rudimentary precautions to protect its sensitive data.

"Hopefully, it won't take them forever [to clean up]," said Nathans. "Obviously, they've had some issues in the past, and those issues were never really dealt with in an efficient and complete manner, which probably helped lead to what is happening now."

Next Steps

Need more info on the Sony data breach? The FBI has warned that wiper malware was responsible for the damage dealt to the company, and executives were found to have received extortion emails just days before the company's data was leaked online.

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This is idiocy. The data is out there. The emails are collected and the info is ready to be released. So why react to the threat when the data is already gone and will probably get out anyhow?
Release the movie, deal with the email fallout, move on. Unless there's so much more - and illegal - in those emails that the hackers got, then why pause now and bow to the threats? I shake my head.
Just following up on my earlier comment. We subsequently found out - not with any degree of certainty, mind you - that this was either an inside job or was a botched attempt by an outside agency. Whatever the case, my original comment stands. It's idiocy. Show the movie. Deal with the issue of lost data (if it really was lost) in another way.