The cyber-attack on Sony has proven to be bigger than mere disapproval to a movie that a political leader and his followers find rather offensive. In retaliation against "The Interview" — a comedy that features two journalists who are assigned to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un — the hackers that breached Sony Pictures' cyber-security not only mined private data from the company's servers but also leaked them to the public as a means of harassing and terrorizing the movie firm.
The leaked data includes private information of employees, movie scripts, and emails. The unforeseen and rather embarrassing exposé humbled Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal enough to make her give a public apology.
The pressure escalated when the hackers that call themselves The Guardians of Peace threatened a "9/11-like" attack on theaters that would screen "The Interview." In addition, the hackers also promised a "Christmas gift" of stolen files, which Variety reported is called "Michael Lynton." Lynton is Sony Pictures' CEO.
Investigations on the hack already involve the FBI, but the company's decision Wednesday to cancel the Christmas Day rollout of the said film has merited an open reaction from The White House. The President called the move "a mistake."
"Sony's a corporation. It suffered significant damage, there were threats against its employees," Obama has been quoted as saying. "I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake."
Obama also said during the press conference Friday, "I wish they had spoken to me first ... We cannot have a society in which some dictatorship someplace can start imposing censorship."
Many high-profile individuals reportedly share the same sentiments, including author George R.R. Martin who called Sony's move "corporate cowardice" and George Clooney who, in an interview with Deadline, urged Sony to get the movie out online.
Sony, however, denied accusations of having caved in to the threats. In its defense, it said that it was the theaters that pulled out on them.
"We were taken by surprise by the theaters, which is what we wanted to do first. Now we're trying to proceed and figure out what the next steps would be," Sony's Lynton told CNN.
All the same, the hackers deem this as a victory as they reportedly sent Sony execs a new email telling them that their move was "very wise" and further threatened them to not show the film in any manner.
"They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond," President Obama said. "We will respond proportionately, and we will respond at a place and time and manner that we choose."
The FBI already pinpointed the North Korean government as the one responsible for the attack. Pyongyang, however, denied being involved and has even proposed a joint investigation.
"As the United States is spreading groundless allegations and slandering us, we propose a joint investigation with it into this incident," the North Korean foreign ministry said Saturday, as reported by Reuters. "Without resorting to such tortures as were used by the US CIA, we have means to prove that this incident has nothing to do with us."
The North Korean spokesperson then reportedly added that there would be "grave consequences" if the U.S. does not accept the proposal for a joint investigation.
In response, National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh said, "We are confident the North Korean government is responsible for this destructive attack. We stand by this conclusion ... The government of North Korea has a long history of denying responsibility for destructive and provocative actions."