The hackers behind the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment are pledging to target upcoming screenings of The Interview with 9/11-style attacks, according to the latest release from the anonymous group calling itself the Guardians of Peace.
The group sent the ominous message to journalists Tuesday.
The threat, quoted in industry publications like the Hollywood Reporter and Variety, specifically mentions the film, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists involved in a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The message warns people to "keep yourself distant" from theatres showing the comedy, which premiered in Los Angeles last week and is slated for wide release on Dec. 25.
"How bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to," reads the missive, which is full of grammatical errors.
"Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made," it continues, "The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001."
The threat is a reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which killed more than 2,700 people.
The message warned people to stay away from places where The Interview will be shown and to leave their homes if they live near theatres screening the film.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said there was "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theatres" but noted it was still analyzing the GOP messages.
Sony told theatre owners on Tuesday that they would be supportive of their decisions on whether or not to show the film, according to multiple reports.
Soon after, Carmike Cinemas, which operates 247 theatres across the U.S., announced it would pull screenings of the film, according to the Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
Police in New York and Los Angeles said they will be taking extra precautions at theatres over the holidays.
'It's actually not crystal clear whether it's a cyber-response that they are threatening or whether it's a physical attack.' - John Miller, NYPD counterterrorism official
"Having read through the threat material myself, it's actually not crystal clear whether it's a cyber-response that they are threatening or whether it's a physical attack," said John Miller, the New York Police Department's top counterterrorism official.
The NYPD had planned to beef up security at the Manhattan premiere of The Interview on Thursday. But Landmark Theatres, which owns the cinema where the premiere was to take place, said late Tuesday the showing would be cancelled.
Meanwhile, Rogen and Franco have pulled out of all media appearances related to the film, cancelling a BuzzFeed Q&A and Rogen's planned guest spot Thursday on Late Night With Seth Meyers.
The two stars appeared Monday on Good Morning America and Rogen was also a guest on The Colbert Report.
Read the full threat:
We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places "The Interview" be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
The world will be full of fear.
Remember the 11th of September 2001.
We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
All the world will denounce the SONY.
Data dumps continue
Also on Tuesday, the hackers distributed their promised "Christmas gift"of files, originally mentioned in a message released over the weekend.
The thousands of leaked documents included banal emails about public appearances, dinner invitations and business introductions but also information about casting decisions for upcoming films and sensitive corporate financial records, such as royalties from iTunes, Spotify and Pandora music services.
The data dump included about 8,000 emails from the inbox of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton.
Sensitive material from the entertainment unit of Tokyo-based Sony Corp. has been leaked almost daily since hackers broke into its computer networks last month, including embarrassing emails between executives.
Producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal issued apologies last week after some of the stolen emails revealed them making racially charged jokes about U.S. President Barack Obama.
Earlier data dumps included a script and production notes for the new James Bond movie SPECTRE.
Speculation has been rampant that North Korea sponsored the attack against The Interview. Pyongyang denies any involvement in the hack, but has condemned the film.
Over the summer, it 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 declined to comment on whether North Korea or another country was behind the attack but said it is still investigating the matter.
Ex-employees sue Sony
Two former employees of Sony are suing the 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 filed Tuesday in U.S. district court in California 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 the company did not act on those warnings. The plaintiffs are asking for compensation for fixing credit reports, monitoring bank accounts and other costs as well as damages.
The filing comes one day after two other former Sony employees filed a suit accusing the company of negligence in not bolstering its defences against hackers before the attack. It claims 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.
Both suits seek class-action status.
Hackers urge Sony employees to get in touch
In their warning Tuesday, the hackers suggested Sony employees make contact via several disposable email addresses ending in yopmail.com. Frenchman Frederic Leroy, who started up the yopmail site in 2004, was surprised to learn the Sony hackers were using yopmail addresses. He said there was no way he could identify the users.
"I cannot see the identities of people using the address ... there is no name, no first name," he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. He said yopmail is used around the world but there are "hundreds and hundreds" of other disposable email sites.
Leroy, who lives in Barr, outside Strasbourg in eastern France, said he heard about the Sony hackers yesterday on the radio but knows nothing more. He said he has not been contacted by any authorities.