Near the end of November, a hacker group identifying itself as GOP (or Guardians of Peace) accessed movie studio Sony Pictures' internal data and then threatened to make it public. The hack resulted in the leak of a mountain of data, including embarrassing emails and unreleased movies. Hackers initially succeeded at using threats to force studio bosses to pull "The Interview," a movie they found offensive, before the studio did an about-face and announced the movie's release. Here is a collection of the hack's highlights -- or lowlights.
Embarrassing comments leaked
On December 11, Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal apologized for comments made in a series of leaked email exchanges between herself and producer Scott Rudin.
In one email exchange, Pascal quipped about President Obama, "Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?" To which Rudin replied "12 YEARS," (in reference to the movie "12 Years a Slave"). Pascal then responded "Or the butler. Or think like a man?" referring to other films featuring black actors.
Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch
Snapchat's CEO rails at hackers
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said he was "angry" and "devastated" that information about his startup's business plan was revealed as a result of Sony Pictures' crippling security breach.
"I felt like I was going to cry all morning, so I went on a walk and thought through a couple things," he wrote in a memo sent to Snapchat employees.
Sony Pictures; screenshot by CNET
Seth Rogen and James Franco
Seth Rogen and James Franco star in Sony Pictures' $44 million comedy "The Interview," which focuses on a fictitious trip to North Korea to assassinate leader Kim Jong-un.
Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
North Korea, upset by "The Interview" and the (movie) plot to assassinate Kim, was behind the massive hack of the studio, according to the FBI.
The 'Interview' heard round the world
On December 17, Sony canceled the release of "The Interview," following threats of September 11-style attacks on moviegoers. After President Obama said the studio had made a mistake by backing down, Sony later announced that the movie would screen after all.
Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images
Hollywood's reaction to the pulling of the film was mixed, with many A-list celebrities criticizing Sony's action. Actor George Clooney unloaded on the North Korean dictator for his nation’s reaction to "The Interview," saying “We cannot be told we can’t see something, by Kim Jong-un, of all f---ing people,” Clooney said in an interview with Deadline Hollywood.
Here, Clooney and his wife, Amal Alamuddin, leave the Aman Hotel in Venice on September 28.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
'Sony made a mistake'
The opinion from the White House was much the same. “We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States,” President Obama said on December 19, during his last news conference of the year.
Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images
Sony Pictures CEO: 'We made no mistake'
In President Obama's opinion, Sony erred by pulling "The Interview" from theaters after hackers made threats of violence. But Sony Pictures Co-Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton said, "we made no mistake." He said theaters had opted not to show the film.
Here, Sony corporation CEO Kazuo Hirai (left) shakes hands with Lynton at Sony's Tokyo headquarters in November.
FBI blames North Korea
On December 19, the FBI released the findings
of its investigation into one of the most destructive cyberattacks ever
on a company on US soil, saying North Korea was to blame.
later, North Korea responded to the FBI's assertion. The country's state news agency said, "Without resorting to such tortures as
were used by the CIA, we have means to prove that this incident has
nothing to do with us."
Internet goes dark in North Korea
On December 22, after President Obama vowed to take action in response to the Sony Pictures hack, North Korea experienced an unusual Internet outage. Speaking with reporters the same day, a spokeswoman for the US State Department wouldn't say what steps the US would take against North Korea. "We are considering a range of options in response," Bloomberg quoted her as saying. "Some will be seen. Some may not be seen." Internet connectivity was eventually restored, after 10 hours, Bloomberg reported.
Twitter screenshot by CNET
'The Interview' is back on
Call it a Christmas miracle for the First Amendment, or perhaps Sony again bowing to pressure, this time from Washington instead of terrorists. But on December 23, news broke that "The Interview" would be released to some theaters on Christmas Day.
Screenshot by CNET
Victory for free speech
The same day, "Interview" co-star and co-director Seth Rogen sent this message to his Twitter followers, announcing that "The Interview" would be shown in theaters willing to screen it.
Screenshot by CNET
Online streaming option
Sony also turned to the Internet to release the movie, starting at 10 a.m. PT December 24.
Google Play, Google's YouTube Movies, Microsoft's Xbox Video and a dedicated Sony-built website called Seetheinterview.com were the first options out the door.
The movie can be rented for $6 or purchased for $15.
Taking a risk
Among the more than 200 independent theaters that chose to show "The Interview" once Sony gave the go-ahead is this Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in southwest Austin.
The first showing was set for 11:50 p.m. local time on Christmas Day.
Alamo Drafthouse, a small chain of movie theaters based in Texas, was among the companies calling on Sony to let them show the film despite the threats of physical violence from the hackers who infiltrated Sony's servers.