Following a devastating cyberattack on internal servers, Sony has decided to pull the controversial film 'The Interview' and has finally bowed to the demands of hackers.
The 'Guardians of Peace' (GOP), the group which claimed responsibility for infiltrating Sony's servers and stealing vast treasure troves of data, demanded that Sony pull the plug on 'The Interview,' a film which was due for release in the coming month.
The Interview follows the story of two journalists who are enlisted by the CIA to assassinate the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un.
Several weeks after the first demands were issued, Sony has bowed to pressure and canceled its planned release of the movie, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Sony said in a statement on Wednesday:
"We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."
A spokesman said the company has "no further release plans for the film," on-demand, DVD, cinema or otherwise.
While the FBI is investigating the security breach, US officials have concluded North Korea is behind the cyberattack in some way. However, North Korean officials have denied playing a part in the attack against Sony -- while at the same time praising the hacking group for their efforts.
This is a landmark case in a way -- the first time a high-profile company has submitted to the demands of a criminal group, which will in turn cost the company millions in lost potential revenue.
It's understandable. Sony is probably waiting with baited breath for the next data dump which GOP promised to release online -- dubbed Sony's 'Christmas gifts' -- which will cause nothing more than additional chaos, business relationship ruin and reputation destruction. The company has already had to shift into damage control procedures as thousands of employee and actor records, medical data, sensitive emails between board members and documents confirming secretive business deals have been leaked online.
This cyberattack has been far more damaging than what Sony had to cope with due to the PlayStation network data breach in 2011. In that example, the media giant had millions of upset customers whose private information -- including bank account details -- were exposed.
That was painful enough. However, this time, you have court cases flying in thick and fast from former employees whose private data is now available freely on the Web, actors upset by remarks made by Sony's board in emails -- such as Angelina Jolie allegedly being called a "minimally talented spoiled brat" by producer Scott Rudin -- companies on the phone raging that private acquisition deals are now known to the media, and US police worried that Sony's film will prompt terrorist attack.
No matter how difficult the pill is to swallow, however, GOP made reference to the attacks on 9/11 in the latest file dump. Bluster and bravado it may be, but the implication of a terrorist attack on cinemagoers is enough to raise the hackles of US police, and Sony cannot afford to potentially risk innocent lives at stake for the sake of a movie.
By withdrawing plans to screen The Interview, Sony may also prevent additional data from being dumped online -- or may not. GOP is an unknown entity which may release additional files just for the sake of doing so, even as their demands are met. Either way, the experience has damaged Sony terribly, and who knows what it will take to mop up this destruction in the future -- and the cost of recovery which will go beyond the financial.
A cyberattack has brought a company to its knees, and under the assault, Sony has been forced to bow to criminal pressure. For Sony, the consequences of being targeted have been devastating -- but now one household name has changed its intentions due to the demands of a hacking group, the long-term consequences may be far worse. One group has succeeded -- so will we see other hacking groups follow suit?