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Sony Hackers Threaten Violence Over "The Interview" (Update)

The most serious threat from the attackers yet.

REUTERS/Fred Prouser

The hackers who infiltrated Sony Pictures Entertainment and put the entire entertainment industry on edge are threatening violence at movie theaters planning to show “The Interview” — the group’s most brazen attempt at hurting the studio and its patrons.

Sony and theater owners are working with law enforcement to deal with the threat, according to several sources, and the film’s two stars, Seth Rogen and James Franco, have canceled their press events.

The latest development escalates what was a corporate attack to an issue of national security, attracting the attention of the U.S. government.

The group, calling themselves the Guardians of Peace, mentioned the film for the first time by name and threatened to take unspecified actions against its premiere, set for Dec. 25.

“Remember the 11th of September,” the group wrote in a note accompanying its latest release of hacked documents. “We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places ‘The Interview’ be shown….We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

Sony Pictures is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security to deal with the threat. “Please remain vigilant and should you have any information relevant to the investigation, please contact the FBI,” CEO Michael Lynton said in a company wide email sent this afternoon, which listed a contact address.

Theater owners throughout the country are also consulting with the FBI over the threat, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The National Association of Theater Owners, a trade organization that represents exhibitors throughout the country, declined to speak about the latest developments, and Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Theaters, two of the nation’s largest theater chain owners, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the two stars of “The Interview,” Rogen and Franco, have canceled all press appearances to promote the comedy that has become the focus of hackers’ threats, BuzzFeed reported. BuzzFeed had planned to interview the actors Tuesday night at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City.

In a statement, the FBI said it “continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate the Sony attack.” A spokesperson for the film studio and a publicist for Rogen, the film’s writer and director, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The hackers’ latest message contained links to what is apparently the ninth dump of data stolen in the hack. The files appeared to contain Lynton’s email archive. The executive briefly addressed the attack in an all-hands meeting with the studio’s employees yesterday, saying, “This won’t take us down.”

Sony’s digital siege first came to light Nov. 24 when unknown attackers crippled its internal corporate network. Within days, attention focused on a possible connection to North Korea. The country has denounced “The Interview,” an R-rated comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco about a CIA-backed assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by two bumbling TV reporters, calling it an “act of war.” North Korea has officially denied a hand in the attack but has applauded the attackers, calling their efforts “a righteous deed.”

Till now, the hackers haven’t mentioned the movie by name, referring only to “the movie of terror,” but now they’ve spelled out their grievance and their intent to use fear of violence to halt its release.

A Sony spokesperson had no immediate comment. An FBI spokesperson said the matter remains under investigation and had no comment.

Update: Sony is working with FBI and Homeland Security on the latest hacker threat.

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