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This article was published on December 13, 2014

The Sony Pictures hack: Everything we know so far

The Sony Pictures hack: Everything we know so far
Owen Williams
Story by

Owen Williams

Former TNW employee

Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.

Sony’s hacking story has been a long, confusing one to follow. Leaks have seemed endless since first starting and more crazy details have emerged in the last week than we’ve ever seen from the company.

We still don’t know who hacked Sony Pictures, but the FBI is working to track down the source of the leaks. Here’s a timeline of what’s happened with Sony and what we know so far.

November 21: Anonymous hackers send email to Sony Pictures CEO, Michael Lynton, along with other executives warning of “great damage by Sony Pictures” and that the company will be “bombarded as a whole” if they don’t pay money.

November 24: Story breaks that Sony Pictures’ computers show “hacked by GOP” message and attackers threaten to release data if demands were not met by a deadline of 11:00 PM GMT. It’s not clear what the demands of the hackers were, but the deadline came and went with no immediate release of data.


November 28: Recode reports that Sony Pictures is looking to point blame on North Korea for the attack.

November 29: Variety reports that the Sony Pictures hack could be related to the release of “The Interview,” a comedy film that depicts Seth Rogen assasinating North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Reuters reports that North Korea threatened Sony Pictures with a “merciless countermeasure” if it releases the film.

December 1: Torrents of unreleased Sony Pictures films appear online. “Annie”, “Mr. Turner”, “Still Alice” and “To Write Love on Her Arms” which are planned for 2015 were discovered on popular file sharing websites. Sony Pictures begins working with the FBI to find attackers.

December 2: The first data leak by GOP appears on a text-sharing website.  This first leak contained financial information about staff, including the salaries of many top executives inside Sony.

December 3: The second data leak by GOP appears on text-sharing websites. The second leak came with a “bonus” containing plain-text passwords stored by Sony, along with the company’s security certificates and other credential data. Fusion reported that this same leak also contained the salaries of staff at financial firm Deloitte.

December 4: A huge amount of marketing slide decks leak that detail Sony’s reasoning for releasing films, how it can market them with associated products and a lot more.


December 5: Attackers appear to threaten Sony Pictures employees via email, but GOP denies in a later leak that it was behind this threat.

December 7: North Korean officials deny involvement in the attack but praise the attackers for doing so. Sony issues an internal memo calling the attack “unprecedented” and “unique enough to cause the FBI to release a flash alert to warn other organizations of this critical threat.”

Bloomberg reports that the FBI has traced the attack to a hotel in Bangkok, but it’s not known if the attacker was a guest or simply using the public WiFi.

Seth Rogen and James Franco from “The Interview” film appear on SNL mocking the attackers.

December 8: Data including Brat Pitt’s phone number, publicity bibles and budget data for feature films is leaked, along with a number of celebrity aliases used to conceal them from the public eye.

December 9: Malware is spotted in the wild using Sony Pictures’ leaked security certificates to circumvent target computer security. Hackers warn Sony not to release “The Interview” saying “we are sending you our warning again” to “stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism.” The FBI denies the attacks are linked to North Korea.

Mailboxes of Sony Pictures’ executives are also leaked on December 9. Reports on the cancelled Steve Jobs film emerge due to leaked email found in those inboxes.

December 10: Reports emerge that Sony Pictures is attempting to disrupt torrent downloads of its leaked data by creating fake “seeds” which cause overloading on user torrent clients.

December 11: The Verge reports that Sony Pictures was secretly hacked in February.

December 12: Fusion reports that downloading the Sony Pictures data could send the FBI to your door. Recode also reported that the company knew of gaps in security before the attack.

The Verge uncovers a massive operation called “Project Goliath” that targeted Google as a means to stem piracy. After constant pressure from the MPAA despite immense progress, Google walked away and refused to work with the groups in future.

December 13: Sony Pictures is reportedly cancelling film shoots as it can’t process payments right now. The hackers today released a new chunk of data in greater volumes than previous and are promising an even larger “Christmas gift.”

We are preparing for you a Christmas gift.
The gift will be larger quantities of data.
And it will be more interesting.
The gift will surely give you much more pleasure and put Sony Pictures into the worst state.
Please send an email titled by “Merry Christmas” at the addresses below to tell us what you want in our Christmas gift.

December 14: Sony Pictures’ attorney David Boies sent out a letter to news organizations demanding that they stop publishing information from the stolen leaks, or take responsibility for damage brought to the company by doing so.

December 15: The hackers made a terrorist threat against theatres showing The Interview alongside releasing data.

December 16: Sony employees have filed a class action lawsuit against the company for its failure to secure its networks, and for not protecting employees after their personal information was compromised.

December 17: The four largest theater chains in the US have confirmed that they won’t be showing The Interview. This now includes Regal, AMC, Cinemark, Carmike and BowTie.

December 18: Sony postpones The Interview until further notice.

December 19: The FBI names North Korea as the country behind the attacks, Obama labels Sony’s cancellation of the film as “disappointing.” Sony says no video on demand or DVD release is planned.

December 20: Sony’s hackers “troll” the FBI with sarcastic message congratulating it for choosing North Korea. Sony’s CEO says it “hasn’t caved” to demands.

December 21: The New York Post reports that Sony plans to release The Interview for free on its Crackle streaming service after all.

We’ll keep this post updated with the latest developments as they happen.

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