North Korea denies involvement in Sony Pictures cyber attack

The Hollywood studio was attacked last month, with thousands of its internal documents and several complete movies leaked.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
2 min read

Sony Pictures Studios has denounced a "brazen" cyber attack against it. Getty Images

North Korea's government on Sunday denied hacking Sony Pictures as retaliation to the Hollywood studio's forthcoming film "The Interview," a comedy about a plot to assassinate the country's leader.

"We do not know where in America the Sony Pictures is situated and for what wrongdoings it became the target of the attack," a spokesman for the National Defense Commission was quoted saying to the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

The spokesman added that Sony Pictures planned to produce "a film abetting a terrorist act while hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership" of North Korea. The spokesman said the hacking "might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers" of the country in response to the country's call to end "US imperialism."

Hackers last month breached Sony Pictures' computer system, then leaked thousands of the film and TV studio's internal documents to file-sharing networks. Soon after, five complete Sony movies, including four unreleased titles, were pirated online.

North Korea's secretive and isolationist government has been a primary suspect in the attack, as it was believed to be responding to Sony Pictures' forthcoming movie "The Interview." The comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco is due out this month and focuses on a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The comedy "The Interview" focuses on an assassination plot of North Korea's leader. Sony Pictures

The hack crippled the computer network for Sony Pictures, the film and TV arm of Japanese tech giant Sony, amid the critical holiday movie season. Also, the pirating of the unreleased movies should drag down ticket sales for those films, as occurred when Lions Gate's "Expendables 3" was leaked ahead of the movie's release a few months ago. The attack also comes at a particularly bad time for Sony, which has been struggling with quarterly losses as it tries to push into the competitive mobile market.

A Sony Pictures representative didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

An analysis of 33,000 leaked Sony Pictures documents by data security software firm Identity Finder showed that the leaked files included the personal information, salaries and home addresses for employees and freelancers who worked at the studio. Some celebrities' information was released, too, including data about actor Sylvester Stallone, director Judd Apatow and Australian actress Rebel Wilson.

Other data leaked to file-sharing networks include contracts, termination dates, and other sensitive information, nearly all of which was stored in Microsoft Excel files without password protection, according to Identity Finder. The security firm said it discovered in the files more than 1.1 million Social Security numbers, but that many were duplicates.