The US justice department is poised to announce charges in connection with the hack of Sony in 2014.
A US government official familiar the criminal case said authorities will charge a North Korean believed to have operated from China. Authorities have said previously that North Korea was responsible for the cyber-attack.
The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter before the department’s announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity, the Associated Press reported.
In December 2014, Sony was left reeling by a cyber-attack on its film-making studio that exposed five of its upcoming movies, including the big-budget musical remake Annie – released online to file-sharing sites by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace. The LA Times reported that social security details for Judd Apatow, Sylvester Stallone and Rebel Wilson were also leaked in the breach.
Reports at the time suggested the hackers were working on behalf of North Korea in retaliation for The Interview, a spoof which riffed on a fictional CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Seth Rogen and James Franco played two journalists charged with carrying out the killing. The depiction caused officials to complain to the United Nations and resulted in the state media of the isolated nation warning of “merciless retaliation”.
Experts at the time were sceptical about North Korean involvement in the leaks, but a Bloomberg report suggested a Sony internal report linked the attack to a group associated with Pyongyang known as DarkSeoul, which wiped out the computers of South Korean banks and broadcasters in March 2013.
The report cites an anonymous person familiar with the investigation, though the studio has not officially accused Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, a North Korean official denied the country was responsible for cyber attacks on Sony in an interview with Voice of America. “Linking the DPRK to the Sony hacking is another fabrication targeting the country,” said the unidentified diplomat. “My country publicly declared that it would follow international norms banning hacking and piracy.”
The hack and subsequent leaks revealed that Rogen was paid $8.4m for co-directing and acting in the film, while co-star Franco received $6.5m.
The film’s overall budget was $44m and included $241 for a “table of weed, coke, pills and panties”, believed to be props, and $74,000 for two tigers, their handlers, and special “tiger accommodations”. The details were released via the file-sharing site Pastebin along with sensitive information about scripts for upcoming TV shows and the credit card details of Sony boss Michael Lynton.
The hack also revealed that film star Jennifer Lawrence was paid considerably less than her male co-stars in American Hustle.