Washington weighs response to Sony hack; options limited

Thu Dec 18, 2014 5:11pm EST
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By David Brunnstrom and Piya Sinha-Roy

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Thursday said it was weighing the proportional response to the sophisticated perpetrator of a cyberattack that crippled Sony Pictures, exposed its executives and led to the cancellation of the film "The Interview."

Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House is not in a position to confirm that North Korea is responsible for the hack at Sony, after a U.S. official said Wednesday that Washington may soon formally announce the involvement of the Pyongyang government. The effect of any response, such as cyber retaliation or financial sanctions, could be limited, U.S. experts said.

More than three weeks after the attack by hackers identifying themselves as "Guardians of Peace" brought down the computer network at Sony Pictures Entertainment, one of Hollywood's biggest studios grappled with the losses to its operation and reputation through sensitive leaked emails.

Sony decided on Wednesday to scrap its big Christmas Day release of "The Interview," a comic film that culminates in the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Movie theater chains said they would not show the film citing security concerns after hackers made threats against cinemas and audiences.

A senior North Korean U.N. diplomat declined to comment on accusations that Pyongyang was responsible for the hacking attack on Sony Pictures. He also declined to comment on the delay of the release of the film.

After the cancellation, Sony began pulling promotion of the $44 million film, dismantling the giant promotional billboard on Hollywood's famed Sunset Boulevard on Thursday.

Some of the Hollywood's biggest names howled over the cancellation of the film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, the latter also a co-director on the movie with partner Evan Goldberg.

Steve Carell, who has starred alongside Rogen in numerous comedies, said "Sad day for creative expression."   Continued...

A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film "The Interview" in Los Angeles, California December 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian