North Korean leaders ordered the attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, the U.S, Justice Department is expected to announce as early as tomorrow, sources tell Deadline.
The attack that began November 24, and continued to unfold nearly daily, came to a climax today with Sony cancelling the scheduled December 25 release of The Interview. A mysterious group calling itself Guardians of Peace had claimed credit for the attack on the studio over the movie — a comedy about a talk show host and producer asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Contacted by Deadline, the FBI declined to comment on the report of the Justice Department’s findings which began to dominate the TV news cycle this afternoon. U.S. Rep Ed Royce (R-Calif), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said this afternoon on CNN that he’s been told the attack had been undertaken “at the behest of a foreign government.” Royce said that North Korea has built up a substantial cyber warfare capability centered in the unit called Bureau 121.
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Word of the Justice Department’s findings came shortly after Sony announced it had decided to delay the debut of The Interview. “Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like,” the studio said in a statement issued after the major theater chains announced they would not show the film, citing theater-goers security concerns. One day earlier, the hackers had warned people to stay away from movie theaters daring to show The Interview when it opened on Christmas Day, adding “Remember the 11th of September 2001.
Earlier in the day, ABC News’ David Muir asked President Obama if people should stay away from movie theaters during the holiday season. “The cyber attack (against Sony) is very serious. We’re investigating it, we’re taking it seriously. We’ll be vigilant; if we see something we think is serious and credible, then we’ll alert the public, but for now my recommendation would be that people go to the movies,” Obama said.