Sony hackers reference 9-11 in ominous threats in first phase of "Christmas gift" data dump

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2014 file photo, cars enter Sony Pictures Entertainment headquarters in Culver City, Calif. Hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 released another round of data leaks, including ominous threats against the premiere of Sony Pictures' film "The Interview," in which the group references the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Image Credit: (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace made ominous threats Tuesday against movie theatres showing Sony Pictures' film "The Interview" that referenced the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The group also released a trove of data files: what they called the beginning of a "Christmas gift." But GOP, as the group is known, included a message warning that people should stay away from places where "The Interview" will be shown, including the upcoming premiere. Referencing 9-11, it urged people to leave their homes if located near theatres showing the film.

"The Interview" is a comedy in which Seth Rogen and James Franco star as television journalists involved in a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Its New York premiere is scheduled for Thursday at Manhattan's Landmark Sunshine, and is expected to hit theatres nationwide on Christmas Day. It premiered in Los Angeles last week.

Patrick Corcoran, spokeman for the National Association of Theater Owners, wouldn't comment on the threats.

Speculation about a North Korean link to the Sony hacking has centred on that country's angry denunciation of the film. Over the summer, North Korea warned that the film's release would be an "act of war that we will never tolerate." It said the U.S. will face "merciless" retaliation.

The FBI has said that it is investigating the attack but has declined to comment on whether North Korea or another country was behind the attack.

Separately Tuesday, two former employees of Sony Pictures Entertainment sued the Culver City, California company for not preventing hackers from stealing nearly 50,000 social security numbers, salary details and other personal information from current and former workers.

The federal suit alleges that emails and other information leaked by the hackers show that Sony's information-technology department and its top lawyer believed its security system was vulnerable to attack, but that company did not act on those warnings.


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