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Poll: Is Sony Pictures right to pull The Interview at threat of North Korea hackers?

By Christopher Hooton

Hollywood stars have reacted furiously after Sony Pictures make the controversial decision to shelve comedy film The Interview at the threat of North Korea hackers. Do you think they made the right decision? Vote in our poll (left)

Sony Pictures took the decision to back down to "terrorists" threating to attack cinemas if James Franco and Seth Rogen's North Korea comedy The Interview is released.

The Interview has been shelved after hackers threatened to launch terrorist attacks on cinemas that showed the film.

The comedy was due to be released in America on Christmas Day and come to the UK in February.

But hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace threatened to launch attacks like the September 11 atrocities.

Sony Pictures said it was pulling the movie "in light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film".

But some of America's biggest stars accused film bosses of bowing to bully-boy tactics.

The studio said in a statement that it "stands by [its] filmmakers and their right to free expression" but must put "the safety of employees and theatre-goers" first.

Steve Carrell called it "a sad day for creative expression", while Zach Braff described the move as "a pretty horrible precedent to set".

Stephen King weighed in this morning, saying: "Sony's decision to pull THE INTERVIEW is unsettling in so many ways. Good thing they didn't publish THE SATANIC VERSES," while Jimmy Kimmel branded it "un-American".

The Interview, which focused on a plot to assassinate NK leader Kim Jong Un, will, if anything probably reach more people now however, as the film is expected to leak online this week after Jong Un's death scene popped up on YouTube.

Defiance

The Alamo Drafthouse in Texas was one independent cinema willing to brave the threat and show the film regardless, it said. But now that it has been cancelled, they have decided to put on a showing of Team America: World Police instead.

The cinema hailed that movie – which is about a North Korean plot to destroy the world and features Kim's father Jong-Il – as “THE GREATEST MOVIE MADE ABOUT AMERICAN PATRIOTISM EVER”.

The showing on 27 December will be a free-to-attend, sing-along affair, and the cinema says it will be providing enough red, white and blue paraphernalia for everyone.

The cinema doesn’t seem to acknowledge the satirical nature of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s film – which opens with the Team America “World Police” saving Paris from terrorists by destroying all its major landmarks.

But the new listing on the Alamo Drafthouse’s website is a glorious display of American defiance and pride in “independence”.

It reads as follows: “Sure, you can celebrate your independence the usual way: slow sipping a beer as you stand over a grill while people you have only mild contempt for wait inside for their free meal. OR you can join The Action Pack as we celebrate the GREATEST MOVIE MADE ABOUT AMERICAN PATRIOTISM EVER and celebrate its 10th anniversary!

“The world is different in 2014 than it was in 2004. Kim Jong Il is gone. I don't know if Michael Moore is still around or not. But a lot of the brilliance in TEAM AMERICA is timeless. Acting is still the greatest gift any human being can possess, and it's the only way to save America from the terrorists. Puppet f***ing is still awesome. And Matt Damon is still Matt Damon.

“So celebrate your indendence [sic] this year with the Action Pack. We'll have subtitles for all the songs and all of our favorite quotes, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to scream out "AMERICA! F*** YEAH!" at the top of your lungs. And yeah, we will have American flags, red white and blue streamers, balloons, and more for everyone. And THAT is how true American heroes will be celebrating this year, but if you want to let the terrorists win...well, that's your prerogative.”

Who are the Guardians of Peace?

It’s been almost a month since the ‘Guardians of Peace’  shut down Sony Pictures, leaving a trail of terror threats, cancelled premieres and irreparable damage to Sony Pictures and its executives in its wake. And while suspicion has mostly fallen on North Korea, there’s more than enough reason to think that it might have been someone else.

The hack started on November 24, when a message appeared across Sony Pictures computers threatening to release data unless an unnamed ‘request bet met’. That aim still hasn’t been identified — speculation is rife that it referred to stopping the release of The Interview, but the group hasn’t said so.

It’s entirely possible that the Guardians of Peace name has been used by a number of different groups by now. Though most of the important messages have been released alongside new batches of data — leading some people to speculate that they are coming from the same original person, who has access to the larger haul — the information has probably made its way around file-sharing communities already, and could easily be packaged up and distributed by anyone wanting to take on the name.

The suspects

North Korea

The country began as idle speculation, and has quickly become the main suspect. There are technical reasons to think that the country was involved, and it definitely has the capabilities. But the main reason North Korea is being blamed is because links were made with the upcoming film The Interview, which depicts among other things the violent of death of Kim Jong-Un.

But the messages have only made oblique reference to the film, and those references have intensified as the North Korea connection has become stronger. That could mean the country is getting angrier — or it could mean that it is hijacking the story, or that other people are deliberately framing North Korea.

Angry (ex-)employee

The hack is of such a huge size, and runs so deep, that it’s likely whoever did it had some sort of physical access to the company and its servers. That was, at the beginning of the hack, one of the main theories — but seems to have been largely left behind in the wake of the excitement over North Korea’s involvement.

Anti-security/hacking groups

They are often driven by the same anarchic philosophy that has characterised Anonymous, where many of the hackers came from. Sometimes known as the ‘lulz’, groups can seek to cause as much damage as possible for little reason other than personal enjoyment.

But there could also be something more political at work — Sony, along with other major distributors, has been active in fighting internet file sharing and has even had its systems taken down by Anonymous in 2011.

Cyber-criminals

The often under-estimated part of hacking and internet security is cyber-criminals — they account for most malicious activity on the internet, but are often talked about and worried about a lot less.

But that’s in part because it’s in their interests to stay quiet.

The information leaked from the Sony hack would be far more valuable if cyber-criminals kept it secret, and used it to extort money or other data from the company. Whoever found the information probably doesn’t want to make money from it — they just want to take money off Sony.

So who was it?

Possibly all four, to some degree.

North Korea’s refusal to deny the hack could be just a PR move, which makes people fear the might of the often-mocked country again and associate the attack with the film it has said has upset it so much. Whoever it was likely did have access to the company, and even if that wasn’t an employee could well have been enabled by them. Anti-sec groups are probably responsible for some of the more anarchic use of the data. And cyber-criminals could be secretly poring through the leaks, too.

So whoever did it probably wasn't just one person — and if North Korea did play a part, they probably weren't alone.

Additional reporting The Independent

Further reading

Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further leaked email thread

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