2014 IN REVIEW: Sony Pictures computer hacking is year’s top story

December 31, 2014 10:46 PM

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CULVER CITY — For much of the year, the biggest news in Culver City in 2014 centered around a 50-year-old ice skating rink that closed its doors early in the year. But coming along in the last few weeks to surpass the Culver City Ice Rink as the biggest story of the year was the computer hacking of Sony Pictures, one of the city’s biggest businesses. The computer hacking became an international incident after it was learned the studio’s computer system might have been hacked as a response to “The Interview,” a movie Sony planned to release Christmas Day that included a fictional assassination plot against North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. After canceling the scheduled release of “The Interview” following threats by Guardians of Peace, the group that took credit for the hacking, Sony executives rethought their position and not only agreed to release the film in certain theaters, they made it available online through video-on-demand streaming. “It has always been Sony’s intention to have a national platform on which to release this film,” Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Lynton said in a statement released Dec. 24. “With that in mind, we reached out to Google, Microsoft and other partners … when it became clear our initial release plans were not possible. We are pleased we can now join with our partners to offer the film nationwide today,” he said. The movie, said to cost about $80 million to make and market, is a goofball comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco about a plot to assassinate North Korea’s dictator. The cyber attack on Sony exposed thousands of employees to identity theft, embarrassed executives and celebrities with the release of off-color emails and crippled the studio’s digital infrastructure. The FBI confirmed that North Korea was behind the crippling cyber attack that hit Sony Pictures Entertainment and President Barack Obama said the nation would respond in kind. “They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond,” Obama said. “We will respond proportionally and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.” The FBI said it found telltale signs in the cyber attack. “The FBI has determined that the intrusion into [Sony Pictures Entertainment’s] network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information, as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications,” the FBI statement said. “Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed.” Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said the hacking scandal went way beyond the fate of the film “The Interview.” “This situation is larger than a movie’s release or the contents of someone’s private emails,” Dodd said. “This is about the fact that criminals were able to hack in and steal what has now been identified as many times the volume of all the printed material in the Library of Congress and threaten the livelihood of thousands of Americans who work in the film and television industry, as well as the millions who simply choose to go to the movies.” Despite its limited availability, “The Interview” recouped some of Sony’s investment. It earned $2.8 million in ticket sales at 331 independent theaters throughout the country and another $15 million online in its first four days.

CULVER CITY — For much of the year, the biggest news in Culver City in 2014 centered around a 50-year-old ice skating rink that closed its doors early in the year.

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