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WikiLeaks republishes hacked Sony data in searchable database

Cache of data stolen in crippling hack includes emails, company documents, and personal information of studio employees and celebrities.

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Sony condemns WikiLeaks' republishing of data stolen in a crippling hack last year. AFP/Getty Images

WikiLeaks has republished the data stolen in last year's crippling hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment, making all the documents and emails available in a "fully searchable" format.

Although hackers had released the data in raw, bulk form last fall, WikiLeaks -- best known for the release of classified government and military documents -- announced Thursday it has published the information in a searchable database called "The Sony Archives." The release of the data cache, which includes 30,287 documents, 173,132 emails, and other sensitive information, proved a disruptive and embarrassing security gaffe for the studio -- one that the Japanese electronics and entertainment giant is still trying to contain.

"This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation," WikiLeaks editor in chief Julian Assange said in a statement on the website. "It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there."

Sony representatives condemned WikiLeaks' republishing the data, calling the initial cyberattack a "malicious criminal act."

"The attackers used the dissemination of stolen information to try to harm SPE and its employees, and now WikiLeaks regrettably is assisting them in that effort," Sony Pictures said in a statement. "We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks' assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees."

The security breach, which Sony discovered in late November, turned out to be more serious and pervasive than initially believed, forced Sony to shut down its computer network for several weeks and delay issuing its quarterly results. A group calling itself #GOP, aka "Guardians of Peace," claimed responsibility and said it had obtained internal information. Hackers leaked the personal information -- including Social Security numbers -- of more than 47,000 celebrities, freelancers. and current and former Sony employees. They also leaked then-unreleased movies, as well as embarrassing emails between Sony Pictures executives, among other internal documents.

The hackers, which the FBI traced to North Korea, were apparently trying to prevent the release of the satirical movie "The Interview," which depicts actors Seth Rogen and James Franco as TV journalists drawn into a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

In a sternly worded letter sent to news organization in December, Sony Pictures general counsel David Boies referred to the leaked Sony documents as "stolen information" and warned them against any use of the leaked data. Later that month, Boies sent a similar letter to Twitter, warning that if "stolen information continues to be disseminated by Twitter in any manner," Sony "will have no choice but to hold Twitter responsible for any damage or loss arising from such use or dissemination by Twitter."

Despite the negative attention generated by the hack, Sony said in January that it didn't expect the security breach to have a substantial impact on its earnings. While some reports pinned Sony's cost to overcome the hack as high as $100 million, Sony's preliminary fiscal third-quarter financial results in February revealed that the company planned to take a $15 million charge in the current quarter to cover "investigation and remediation costs" related to the breach.