Recently, hackers—apparently from North Korea—conducted an unprecedented hack of a corporation’s sensitive data (the SONY hack) to prevent the release of a film, The Interview, ridiculing and portraying the ignominious death of supreme leader Kim Jong Un, also son and grandson of supreme leaders of the isolated state, known for human rights violations.

The outcome may have big implications for our online life in general, if it amounts to a capitulation to their wishes.

In unpacking the story, I propose to start with a simple timeline. So that when my next post discusses it, we are on the same page, if you care to read this one.

December 2, 2014: From Buzzfeed:

A Look Through The Sony Pictures Data Hack: This Is As Bad As It Gets

From details of named employees’ medical histories to an unreleased pilot script written by the creator of Breaking Bad, the unprecedented leak of Sony Pictures data will reverberate for a long time to come.

After sifting through almost 40GB of leaked internal data, one thing is clear: Sony Pictures appears to have suffered the most embarrassing and all-encompassing hack of internal corporate data ever made public.

If you have ever worked for Sony Pictures, North Korea could know stuff about you that you even don’t.

December 14, 2014: From Hollywood Reporter

Sony Attorney David Boies Threatens Media Over Hack Stories

Sony Pictures Entertainment lawyer David Boies sent a letter to news organizations Sunday, cautioning them against using information that hackers have leaked about the studio.

In the letter, first reported by The New York Times, Boies referred to leaked Sony documents as “stolen information” and demanded that the files be ignored, or destroyed if they had already been downloaded.

He may be referencing, among other things, the messages describing Angelina Jolie as “a minimally talented spoiled brat” or Leonardo DiCaprio’s behaviour as “despicable”? We are meant to assume that all that is a big surprise?

December 14, 2014:  A number of developments were reported by the New York Times:

– Sony has found itself isolated, as no other studios offered support.

– One email exchange included U.S. president Obama’s supposed preference for movies that featured black actors.

– further data dumps were also promised by Christmas

December 17, 2014:  Wired came forward to claim that evidence of North Korean involvement is “flimsy.” But the online mag had to backtrack when the US admitted that North Korea was centrally involved in the attack. Meanwhile, Sony had cancelled the Christmas Day showing of the film.

In the meantime, December 17, 2014, Carmike Cinemas had dropped the offending film. According to Hollywood Reporter, that firm operates 278 theaters and 2,917 screens in 41 states:

The situation throughout the day was very fluid: Neither the National Association of Theatre Owners nor the individual national theaters chains have yet publicly spoken about the situation. But according to some insiders, exhibitors are wary of becoming liable if they show the movie and any violence occurs.

With good reason. U.S. tort law creates a grievous legal issue for the theatres if violence occurs.

December 19, 2014:  Actor and activist George Clooney declared: We need to stand with Sony, not to submit to hackers. But no one signed his petition. Hollywood capitulated to North Korea.

The same day, the New York Times editorial board sniffed that “Retaliation by the Obama administration over this attack would risk escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and between North Korea and Japan, where Sony’s corporate parent is based,” suggesting that Sony should merely sell the movie to Netflix maybe, keeping out of theatres, where terrorist attacks might ensue. Or to file-sharing sites.

December 20, 2014: N. Korea proposed a joint probe on Sony hack. As Associated Press tells it,

North Korea on Saturday proposed a joint investigation with the U.S. into the hacking attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, warning of “serious” consequences if Washington rejects a probe that it believes will prove Pyongyang had nothing to do with the cyberattack.

The AP writer acknowledged that the proposal was “seen as a typical ploy by the North to try to show that it is sincere, even though it likely knows the U.S. would never accept its offer for a joint investigation, analysts said.”

December 21, 2014: Buzz swirls around the idea that the studio might be for sale. The owner, Sony Japan, may not want the hassle of being so near to North Korea, yet so far.

Also on December 21, 2014: U.S. president Obama, with his gift for rephrasing issues, weighed in to say that the North Korea attack was not war but “cybervandalism.” Nonetheless, he criticized Sony’s cancellation of the film, saying that the company should have consulted him. A Sony executive pointed out that “he would be ‘fibbing’ to say he ‘wasn’t disappointed’” in Obama’s remarks. 

And on December 21, 2014, we also learn that Sony is to release the film despite all issues. For now, perhaps, on a service, Crackle, that it owns, maybe for free.

Meanwhile, December 21, we are told, again by Associated Press, “N. Korea Threatens Strikes on US amid hacking claims”.

If we can just get past starlets’ tantrums about the revelation that they throw tantrums on the set, can we see what the real issues are? That’s up next.


Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian author, blogger, and journalist.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...