Tag: Sony

“Unnecessarily Antagonistic?” Sony Execs Debate Merits Of Kim Jong Un Assassination Comedy

“Do you think there will be a possibility that Kim Jun Eun may launch missles to our office if we release it?” said a Sony executive based in South Korea.

Sony Pictures

In making a comedy about killing North Korean president Kim Jong Un, Sony Pictures anticipated the film would have its critics. But as the initial release date of The Interview neared, studio executives debated a more specific concern: Was releasing the film on a North Korean national holiday devoted to the founding of the country's ruling party taking things a step too far?

Leaked emails from Sony executives show the company questioning the launch date, as well as broader concerns about a buddy comedy that depicts the killing of a real-life foreign head of state. Members of the company's legal and international units were particularly concerned about the film's inflammatory content; people closer to the creative teams held a more relaxed view.

On May 20, Keith Weaver, the executive vice president for worldwide government affairs at Sony, said the planned release date of Oct. 10 was awkward, as it was the same day as the North Korean holiday that commemorates the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

“The holiday itself is a big deal and involves many ceremonies and marches and weapons displays around the Worker's Party monument, which is depicted in the opening scene (what the missile launches out of/from),” he said. “Should I do anything?”

Sony Pictures Entertainment general counsel Leah Weil said the planned date “seems perhaps unintentionally (unnecessarily) offensive.” In response Weaver said that Jeff Blake, then the vice chairman of Sony Pictures, was “unaware and really appreciated the call” and said that “the right people are discussing” moving the date.

When, in August, Sony decided to move The Interview's release date to Christmas, several outlets portrayed the move as a confident one, and Entertainment Weekly called it a “Christmas gift” to Kim Jong Un. James Weaver, the president of Seth Rogen's production company, said in an email that “the coverage has been really great and this Christmas present to Kim Jun-un idea is awesome and keeps coming up.”

But concerns about the film's potential to offend audiences, especially in East Asia, were voiced earlier by overseas executives.

On May 20, head of international distribution Steven O'Dell said he would send a print of the movie to Sun Yong Hwang, a Sony executive in South Korea, but said that he expected them not to release it, and he “will not even suggest we try to censor the film.” In response, Hwang wrote O'Dell, “Do you think there will be a possibility that Kim Jun Eun may launch missles to our office if we release it?”

O'Dell responded, “The film itself will be a bomb there all by itself.”

He also said releasing the film on a North Korean national holiday “seems unnecessarily antagonistic especially if we doubt the film can be commercial.”

In June, Hwang made it very clear that the movie would be unacceptable in South Korea. “Above all, it make a North Korean head too much caricature and strange North Korean accent is not acceptable to our audience,” she said. “Also there would be a big potential to produce the political issue about North Korea as well.”

Also in June, Robert Crockett, a Disney executive for Southeast Asia, recommended that The Interview not be released in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, citing “very stringent rules & regulations on discriminatory and racial inflammatory content” in Singapore and Malaysia, and that it would not be commercially viable in Indonesia.

Sony ultimately decided not to release the movie in Asia, and Kazuo Hirai, CEO of the Sony parent corporation, made a rare intervention in the creative process, requesting that “a scene in which Mr. Kim's head explodes when hit by a tank shell be toned down to remove images of flaming hair and chunks of skull,” the New York Times reported.

Many suspect that North Korea is behind the devastating hack of Sony Pictures, although neither Sony nor any law enforcement agency has accused the North Korean government in public. Last week North Korea denied that it was behind the hack, but described it as “righteous.” In a message that some Sony employees received from a group purporting to be the hackers, threats were made to employees and their family if they planned to release “the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War!”

In a damning email on May 30, first uncovered by Gawker, Peter Taylor, a Sony Pictures executive in the United Kingdom, said the film was a “misfire” and was “desperately unfunny and repetitive,” until the last 20 minutes, when it “stopped being a comedy altogether with a level of realistic violence that would be shocking in a horror movie.” Taylor did say, “on the plus side,” that the film had one of Rogen's best performances, and that “the concept itself despite being poorly executed is sellable.”

After a trailer was released in June, the North Korean government criticized the movie, prompting Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton to say in an email to Amy Pascal, “better if seth does not do any tweeting for a while until we sort it out.”

However, while Lynton was hoping the controversy would blow over, Pascal decided that the company should distance itself from the film. In one email, she told Blake that “we need sonys name off this asap everywhere.” Sony's legal staff also discussed taking Sony's name off of promotional materials. Lynton then received a series of emails detailing how Sony's name was being removed from from the trailer and credits.

A few days later, a group of Sony executives were emailed a BBC story with the headline “North Korea threatens war on US over North Korea movie,” Pascal responded “Is this a joke.”

Hwang, the Korean executive, responded “Let me find out but it will be fine.” Hannah Minghella, the president of Columbia Pictures, said “I think it's very real and very scary.” Andrea Giametti, the executive vice president for product at Columbia, said, “We survived opus day and Jesus freaks on davinci. Al queda on zero dark thirty. And we will on this too.”

BuzzFeed – Business

Leaked Sony Emails Reveal Angelina Jolie Was Called A “Minimally Talented Spoiled Brat”

The hack also includes revelations about Leonardo DiCaprio deserving an Oscar, Michael Fassbender’s package, and a planned mash-up film of the Jump Street and Men in Black franchises.

Updated — 2 p.m., ET:

Fred Prouser / Reuters

The emails have reportedly come about due to the group Guardians of Peace, which is demanding Sony's Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy The Interview, which lampoons North Korea, doesn't get released.


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BuzzFeed – Tech

Hackers Tell Sony Not To Release “The Interview”

“We are sending you our warning again,” the hackers said.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

A new message posted on the codesharing service GitHub, along with a new cache of documents, warned Sony against releasing “the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War!”

While the film is not identified in the message, it is a clear reference to The Interview, the upcoming Sony film about an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The message comes after some Sony employees received an email threatening them and their families. “We are the GOP working all over the world. We know nothing about the threatening email received by Sony staffers, but you should wisely judge by yourself why such things are happening and who is responsible for it,” today's message says. Both today's message and the email to Sony employees are in broken English.

Over the weekend, the North Korean government denied being behind the devastating hack, but they did describe it as “righteous” and have repeatedly criticized the film. The hack so far has exposed personal and financial information, including social security numbers and salaries, of thousands of Sony employees.

While neither investigators nor the company has identified the source of the hack, an FBI warning sent out describing corporate malware said some of it was in Korean. Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources, that the hack originated in a Thai luxury hotel. Several full-length movies — including the upcoming remake of Annie and the already released Brad Pitt World War II movie Fury — were also released on filesharing services, but not The Interview itself.

by GOP

We are the GOP working all over the world.
We know nothing about the threatening email received by Sony staffers, but you should wisely judge by yourself why such things are happening and who is responsible for it.

Message to SONY

We have already given our clear demand to the management team of SONY, however, they have refused to accept.
It seems that you think everything will be well, if you find out the attacker, while no reacting to our demand.
We are sending you our warning again.
Do carry out our demand if you want to escape us.
And, Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War!
You, SONY & FBI, cannot find us.
We are perfect as much.
The destiny of SONY is totally up to the wise reaction & measure of SONY.

BuzzFeed – Business

North Korea Denies “Righteous” Sony Hack

The regime has denied that it was behind the devastating film studio hack but says it “might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK.”

Kcna / Reuters

The North Korean government denied Sunday it had a role in the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in a statement by the National Defense Commission.

“We do not know where in America the SONY Pictures is situated and for what wrongdoings it became the target of the attack nor we feel the need to know about it,” the statement, published by the Korean Central News Agency said. KCNA Watch, a news service that tracks North Korea, published an English translation of the statement.

Many have speculated that North Korea was behind the devastating cyber attack, which included leaking several Sony films on filesharing networks as well as the release of several thousand current and former Sony employees' personal and financial information. An FBI warning sent last week to private companies said that some of the software in malware which deletes all data on a computer and then prevents it from rebooting was written in Korean.

The North Korean government had already protested the upcoming Sony film The Interview, which stars James Franco as a celebrity journalist who attempts to assasinate Kim Jong Un. A detailed line-item budget of the film was included in the latest batch of leaked doucments. In July, a North Korean government spokesperson said releasing the film would be “the most undisguised terrorism and a war action.” After the initial hack, a spokesperson told the BBC to “wait and see” after he was asked in North Korea was involved in the attack.

While North Korea denied a connection to the hack, it did not back down from harshly criticizing the film, Sony, and the U.S. government. “But what we clearly know is that the SONY Pictures is the very one which was going to produce a film abetting a terrorist act while hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK by taking advantage of the hostile policy of the U.S. administration towards the DPRK,” the statement said.

Some Sony employees received an email on Friday from the “Guardians of Peace” that threatened them and their familes. The North Korean statement today said: “The U.S. should also know that there are a great number of supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK all over the world as well as the “champions of peace” who attacked the SONY Pictures.”


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BuzzFeed – Business

Sony Pictures’ Business Secrets Revealed In Hack — Yep, “Seinfeld” Is Still A Cash Cow

The massive data leak includes intricate details on television syndication and movie licensing deals. From a commercial standpoint, it’s a nightmare for Sony.

Sony Pictures / Via sonypictures.com

The vast trove of internal data hackers took from Sony Pictures Entertainment isn't just a nightmare for its employees, whose deeply personal information was made public. It also revealed intricate details about Sony's business, including syndication contracts and movie licensing deals, which could have huge ramifications for the company's shareholders and business prospects.

Included among the leaked files, for instance, is a signed document between the company and television station owner Tribune Broadcasting. It details a syndication deal between the two companies for the sitcom Seinfeld, and calls for Tribune to pay Sony Pictures $ 37,500 per week over the next three years to air the show on nine of its stations.

That's a total of $ 5.85 million to air a show that broadcast its last original episode 16 years ago and is now on its fifth syndication cycle, meaning Sony has negotiated deals similar to this four times prior. Another document details a similar deal with the CBS-owned television station in Seattle, under which Sony will collect $ 4,500 per week for the next three years, or $ 702,000 total, for that one station alone.

The leak includes hundreds of similar contracts, for shows like King of Queens, The Dr. Oz Show, and All in the Family, dating back to at least 2008. Also contained in the leaked documents are details of how Sony Pictures bundles and packages movies for licensing.

It is, in short, a veritable commercial nightmare for the company.

The documents don't just shed light on the arcane and opaque world of television and movie licensing deals. They also give Sony's counterparts on both sides of the negotiating table — the potential buyers for its shows and films, as well as other production houses trying to sell their content to those same people — a glimpse into how Sony prices, markets, and structures its contracts. The leak has essentially eradicated any leverage Sony may have had over potential buyers and competing sellers in licensing deal negotiations.

It's as if Sony showed up to the poker table holding its cards facing the wrong way.

When asked about the documents and their authenticity, a Sony Pictures representative declined comment.

AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Niko Tavernise

This hurts particularly because television and movie studios, much like record labels, rely on their back catalog of content to generate steady and recurring cash flow to offset the hit-and-miss nature of the business.

Owning hit shows and movies such as The Blacklist, Shark Tank, 22 Jump Street, and Spider-Man gives Sony the ability sell into any distribution channel, from pay TV and on demand to broadcast TV and streaming. The more hit shows a company owns, the more easily they can bundle them with the duds and sell them as a package. The quality of the library serves as both a bargaining chip and a highly lucrative annuity.

For example, one Excel spreadsheet contained in the leaked files details 10 different movie bundles Sony was shopping. Each package was listed under a “product group” — among them “Showcase VII,” “Sony Classics,” and “Sony Pictures Elite” — and contained a select number of movies from a specified date range that would run for an approximate number of times before the term expired. Each entry also included some sales copy describing the bundle.

One such bundle is called “Broadcast Favorites II” and included 41 movies ranging in availability from July 2009 through July 2010 that each had licenses of no more than two months and could be run between two and four times.

The sales copy for that bundle read: “This package is anchored by many of Sony's recent hits, including The Covenant, Crossover, and Gridiron Gang. With genres ranging from action to drama to comedy to romance, this package includes classics such as both My Girl films, newer releases such as Stranger Than Fiction and Reign Over Me and holiday themed films such as The Nuttiest Nutcracker. Big names such as Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis are prominent throughout the package.”

Bundling has, of course, been a big topic of conversation in the media industry this year. On the network side, more and more blackouts of channels such as CBS and CNN and MTV are occurring as pay-TV distributors fight back against onerous licensing fee increases and the packaging of higher-rated channels with lower-rated ones by network owners. Part of the reason Comcast is spending $ 45.2 billion to acquire Time Warner Cable and AT&T is paying more than $ 60 billion to buy DirecTV is to increase their leverage in these very negotiations.

At the same time, the rise of on-demand viewing and streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime has given way to an unbundling of shows from the channels that air them. Consumers no longer need to subscribe to a pay-TV distributor to get AMC if all they really want to watch is Breaking Bad, which they can do on Netflix if they are willing to wait.


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BuzzFeed – Business

The Sony Hackers Are Now Threatening Employees And Their Families

An email from the “Guardians of Peace” showed up in some Sony employees’ inboxes, it ends: “your family will be in danger.”

Fred Prouser / Reuters

This afternoon, nearly two weeks after Sony Pictures Entertainment was hit with a devastating data breach, a number of Sony employees received an email from a party claiming to be the hackers. Several employees received the email to their main inboxes from an individual purporting to be the head of “G O P” or the “Guardians of Peace” (the group that claimed credit for the hack).

The email said that, “removing Sony Pictures on earth is a very tiny work for our group which is a worldwide organization” and continued, threatening that if Sony employees don't “sign [their] name to object the false of the company” then “your family will be in danger.”

A Sony staffer who asked not to identified shared the full email with BuzzFeed News

Several thousand current and former employees have had personal and professional information leaked, including salaries, bonuses, social security numbers, as well as some passwords for professional services, and even health insurance information. Ben Bergman, a reporter for the radio station KPCC, also reported that Sony employees received the email and that phones at Sony had also been hacked.

Many suspect that North Korea had a role in the hack. Included in the hacked documents was an itemized budget for The Interview, a comedy coming out on December 25th about an attempted assassination of North Korean president Kim Jong Un. Several full length Sony feature films, including Annie (which is yet to be released) were also distributed online and are available on file sharing networks.

When reached for comment, a Sony spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We understand that some of our employees have received an email claiming to be from GOP. We are aware of the situation and are working with law enforcement.”

>> Subject: Notice to all the employees of Sony Pictures
>>
>> I am the head of G O P who made you worry.
>>
>> Removing Sony Pictures on earth is a very tiny work for our group which
>> is a worldwide organization.
>> And what we have done so far is only a small part of our further plan.
>> It's your false if you think this crisis will be over after some time.
>> All hope will leave you and Sony Pictures will collapse.
>> This situation is only due to Sony Pictures.
>> Sony Pictures is responsible for whatever the result is.
>> Sony Pictues clings to what is good to nobody from the beginning.
>> It's silly to expect in Sony Pictures to take off us.
>> Sony Pictures makes only useless efforts.
>> One beside you can be our member.
>>
>> Our supporters take their action at any place of the world.
>> Many things beyond imagination will happen at many places of the world.
>> Our agents find themselves act in necessary places.
>> Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email
>> address below if you don't want to suffer damage.
>> If you don't, not only you but your family will be in danger.
>>
>> lisa.harris-79svnkc@yopmail.com
>>
>> Nobody can prevent us, but the only way is to follow our demand.
>> If you want to prevent us, make your company behave wisely.

BuzzFeed – Tech

It Gets Worse: The Newest Sony Data Breach Exposes Thousands Of Passwords

Excel and Word documents plainly expose thousands of computer log-in, financial, and web services passwords, including the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace passwords for hundreds of major motion picture accounts.

BuzzFeed

Yesterday afternoon, the hackers behind the massive Sony corporate data hack released a new trove of documents, and it appears that things are only going to get worse for the victim of the most embarrassing and all-encompassing hack of internal corporate data ever made public.

Included in the newest data dump is a file directory titled “Password,” which includes 139 Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, zip files, and PDFs containing thousands of passwords to Sony Pictures' internal computers, social media accounts, and web services accounts. Most of the files are plainly labeled with titles like “password list.xls” or “YouTube login passwords.xlsx.”

One file BuzzFeed News found included hundreds of clearly labeled Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter usernames and passwords for major motion picture social accounts.

BuzzFeed

Though some passwords appear to be assigned to individual employees and don't include passwords, a number of the passwords to the social media accounts for major films like Ghostbusters, The Social Network, and Easy A appear to be poorly constructed and are not alphanumerical.


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BuzzFeed – Tech

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.

A hack, which some believe may have come from North Korea, will spice up this month's launch of “The Interview”, a comedy about trying to kill the leader of North Korea.

Columbia Pictures

After sifting through almost 40 gigabytes 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.

The data dump, which was reviewed extensively by BuzzFeed News, includes employee criminal background checks, salary negotiations and doctor's letters explaining the medical rationale for leaves of absence. There are spreadsheets containing the salaries of 6,800 global employees, along with social security numbers for 3,500 U.S. staff. And there is extensive documentation of the company's operations, ranging from the script for an unreleased pilot written by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan to the results of sales meetings with local TV executives.

The documents made public this weekend, covering the company's human resources, sales and marketing teams, among others, are just a fraction of approximately 100 terabytes of data the hackers claim to have taken from Sony. They say it will all be made freely available online, once they figure out how to distribute such an enormous amount of information.

A Sony Pictures spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the data released, but shared a brief statement saying the company “continues to work through issues related to what was clearly a cyber attack last week.” Sony is “working closely with law enforcement officials to investigate the matter,” it said.

The hackers, who call themselves the Guardians Of Peace, took credit for the attack this weekend, emailing members of the media with links to download dozens of compressed files, each containing vast troves of data stolen from the servers of Sony Pictures. Earlier, the hackers leaked high-quality video files of five unreleased Sony films. The box office impact of that release, analysts told BuzzFeed News, probably won't be that bad. But the broader cost to Sony of this new round of leaks — to its reputation, its employee morale, and its commercial standing — seems impossible to estimate.

The leak is particularly embarrassing because it comes just three and a half years after Sony and its gaming customers suffered through a three week long hacking nightmare that brought the company's Playstation gaming networks offline and compromised the personal and financial information of up to 25 million customers (though the company did not confirm how many accounts had financial information stolen).

In the days after the April 2011 breach, Sony enlisted three independent computer security and forensic consulting firms to assess its security infrastructure and identify the culprit of the hack, according to a letter from Sony to members of Congress. In the letter, Sony defended its decision to wait five days to admit its security had been compromised and called on the government to help make the internet safer. “We ask the Committee to consider as well the connection between data security and the cybercrimes and cyber terrorism that threaten to make the Internet unsafe for consumers and commerce,” the letter read.

Years after that hack, Sony Pictures still seems to have a long way to go. One of the files leaked this weekend was a word document titled “Passwords” that contained an executive's computer, LotusNotes, and American Express usernames and passwords, as well as Amex credit card numbers, expiration dates, and 4 digit security codes.

An entrance gate to the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, California

Fred Prouser / Reuters

The roughly 40 gigabytes of company information now available online sat on company servers without encryption, with a vast majority of the sensitive personal and financial files containing no password protection. Currently, the stolen data trove is available to download, potentially placing the information in the hands of any hacker, scammer, criminal, media organization or curious citizen who knows their way around a torrent file.

The release of such sensitive data could easily eclipse the leaking of five unreleased films, in terms of its impact on the company's bottom line. “Financially it will cost more to clean up this mess than what they would lose at the box office,” said a movie industry source who requested anonymity because of ties to Sony. “Firewalls, consultants, all that stuff is expensive.”

Sony Pictures employees now face the grim prospect of extremely personal information bouncing around the internet forever. The documents lifted from company servers include email exchanges with employees regarding specific medical treatments they are undergoing, while one disciplinary letter details a manager's romantic relationship and business travel history with a subordinate. None of the names on any of the files are redacted.

In some cases, extensive stores of personal employee files — documents that have nothing to do with Sony corporate business — were included in the breach. One document swept up in the hack outlines the breastfeeding diet of a senior executive.

Leaked performance evaluations cover, sometimes in great detail, how individual employees failed to live up to the expectations of their managers. There are also detailed compensation reports for Sony's executives, including their last three years of compensation at Sony, their target bonus, actual bonus, and base salary. It also compares them to similarly situated employees in other companies and reviews their proposed contracts for the next three years.

Alongside that: Salary information on almost 7,000 employees, from those on multimillion-dollar contracts to those earning less than $ 21,000.

Some believe the leak may have been the work of hackers backed by the North Korean government, which has expressed outrage at an upcoming Sony Pictures comedy film, The Interview, which is built around an attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korean officials have previously described the unreleased film as an act of war, and in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the country's United Nations ambassador said the film was a form of terrorism.

When asked by the BBC on Tuesday if their country was responsible for the Sony Pictures hack, a North Korean government spokesperson replied “wait and see.”

And this may be just the beginning. “We have much more interesting data,” the hackers said in an email sent to media, including BuzzFeed News. “If you find special interest, send an email.”

Matthew Zeitlin, Joe Bernstein, Anne Helen Petersen and Peter Lauria also contributed reporting to this story.


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BuzzFeed – Tech

FBI Warns Of “Destructive Malware” After Attack On Sony

The FBI is warning businesses that hackers have used “destructive malware” to launch cyber attacks in the U.S.

scyther5/scyther5

The Federal Bureau of Investigation sent a secret five-page “flash” warning to U.S. businesses late Monday warning of cyber attacks which use “destructive malware” to wipe data and may be impossible to recover. The report also said the malware has the power to shut down computer networks.

“This malware has the capability to overwrite a victim host's master boot record and all data files,” the report said, according to Reuters who independently obtained it. “The overwriting of the data files will make it extremely difficult and costly, if not impossible, to recover the data using standard forensic methods.”

The warning did not name a specific victim, which is standard protocol, but it comes less than a week after Sony Entertainment was hacked and five films were leaked, including the new version of Annie.

During the attack on Nov. 24, Sony's email system at its California headquarters was hacked and its network seized with computers flashing a skeleton and the words “Hacked by #GOP,” which stands for “Guardians of Peace.”

The FBI has confirmed that it is investigating that attack on Sony and said that “the targeting of public and private sector computer networks remains a significant threat.''

Currently, the investigation is considering whether there is any link between Sony's upcoming film The Interview and North Korea. The country, which has slammed the movie that is about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, has refused to deny involvement in the cyber attack, according to the BBC.

Similar cyber attacks have been launched against companies based in South Korea and the Middle East, but if malware was indeed used against Sony, then it would be the first attack of its kind against a business in the United States, security experts said.

BuzzFeed – Tech