REUTERS - A group that claimed to be responsible for the massive computer hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment demanded that the company cancel the release of "The Interview," a comedy that depicts an assassination plot against North Korea's leader.
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A letter posted on a file-sharing site on Monday asked Sony to "stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War!" It was signed by GOP, the nickname for the "Guardians of Peace" group that says it is responsible for a cyber attack at Sony that began Nov. 24.
Pyongyang has denounced "The Interview" as "undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war" in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
People close to the investigation of the Sony hacking have told Reuters that North Korea is a principal suspect, but a North Korean diplomat has denied that his nation is involved.
The letter included links to downloads of several gigabytes of new data purported to have been stolen from Sony. Reuters was not able to verify whether the letter or documents were released by the same group that revealed other Sony documents.
The letter also said the GOP was not involved in a threatening e-mail sent to Sony staff on Friday. That e-mail claimed to be from the group.
A Sony spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. Sony Pictures Entertainment is a unit of Japan's Sony Corp.
"The Interview," starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, is scheduled for release in the United States and Canada on December 25. The studio is holding advance screenings for media and others.
Sony Corp's movie studio could face tens of millions of dollars in costs from the massive computer hack that hobbled its operations and exposed sensitive data, according to cybersecurity experts who have studied past breaches.
The tab will be less than the $171 million Sony estimated for the breach of its Playstation Network in 2011 because it does not appear to involve customer data, the experts said.
Major costs for the attack by unidentified hackers include the investigation into what happened, computer repair or replacement, and steps to prevent a future attack. Lost productivity while operations were disrupted will add to the price tag.
The attack, believed to be the worst of its type on a company on U.S. soil, also hits Sony's reputation for a perceived failure to safeguard information, said Jim Lewis, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"Usually, people get over it, but it does have a short-term effect," said Lewis, who estimated costs for Sony could stretch to $100 million.
A senior FBI official said on Tuesday that the agency has not confirmed widely held suspicions that North Korea is behind the unprecedented cyber attack on Sony's Hollywood studio.
"There is no attribution to North Korea at this point," Joe Demarest, assistant director with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's cyber division, said while speaking on a panel at a cybersecurity conference sponsored by Bloomberg Government.
The comment casts at least some doubt on the widely held belief that North Korea has definitely been determined to be the culprit in the massive attack on the Hollywood studio, leaving room for other theories to emerge.
Cybersecurity researchers who have analyzed the malicious software used in the attack say that technical indicators suggest North Korean hackers launched the attack. People close to separate investigations being conducted by Sony and the government have told Reuters that North Korea is a principal suspect, yet a North Korean diplomat has denied that his nation is involved.