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What the Sony hacks mean for movies…

Posted on December 19th, 2014
Posted on December 19th, 2014

by Coop Cooper

By now, many of you have heard that the computer systems at Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles were hacked and that not only were many embarrassing emails between employees exposed to the public, but many of Sony’s unreleased films were also uploaded to the internet. While this indeed sounds bad for business at Sony, the attack could have far-reaching implications for the future of Hollywood and for world itself.

A hacker’s group calling itself the ‘Guardians of Peace’ (or GOP for short, all but proving the offenders’ ignorance towards American politics), claims it attacked Sony due to the film “The Interview” which the studio has scheduled to release on Christmas Day. The comedy stars Seth Rogan and James Franco as bumbling Hollywood opportunists who score an interview with Kim Jong Un in North Korea only to be coerced by the C.I.A. into assassinating him. The Guardians of Peace have demanded that Sony not release the movie or it will face an even more cataclysmic attack on December 25th.

While North Korea highly praised the attack, it has denied a role in the hack. So far, this is the damage:

– Leaked social security numbers and personal information of Sony Pictures employees and stars who have appeared in Sony movies.

– Leaked emails between employees revealing confidential information about current films, future projects (including the entire script to the next James Bond movie titled “Spectre”), budgets, salaries and gossip which disparages stars such as George Clooney, Adam Sandler and Angelina Jolie.

– Leaked, full movies of current and unreleased Sony titles have been released on online pirate sites.

– An email in which Sony’s Chief Exec. Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin make light of President Obama’s race by speculating what kind of African American-themed movies he might enjoy.

– Continuing threats and harassment aimed at all Sony Picture employees.

Here’s the aftermath: Both Rudin and Pascal have publicly apologized about the controversial contents of their email and Pascal is reportedly requesting a personal meeting with Al Sharpton in order to apologize to the black community. Pascal has also been seen publicly trying to apologize to celebrities, including Angelina Jolie whose cold facial expression in a well-circulated photograph telegraphed the lack of success of that attempt. Sony has used lawyers to threaten the media not to fan the flames by printing the confidential info while the studio brass simultaneously tries to court the media to help them deliver their damage control messages.

The potential ramifications for the world: Sony may have had lax cybersecurity, but the damage done to it is both a wake up call to Hollywood and all businesses and governments. If a tiny, technologically inferior country like North Korea could cause this much chaos with minimal effort, imagine what a country like China could do to Wall Street or the Pentagon. Cybersecurity industries will no doubt get a boost from this and more technology/resources will be poured into improving cyber-defense.

What this means for Hollywood: Internal confidentiality within the movie-making industry will reach an all-time high. Countermeasures against such future attacks may disrupt, slow-down or cancel the release of films. Now that the success of these attacks have been proven, more frequent attacks will occur. Studios have been leery of offending China in the past few years, but may now be leery to offend any country or political group (foreign or domestic) that has the ability and aggressive nature to pull off such an attack. Sony Pictures will go through a drastic period of change and restructuring… if not fold altogether. The larger entity that owns Sony Pictures is already changing its business strategy which might include the sale of properties. On a positive note, they are considering selling Spider-Man back to Marvel Comics which could put web-slinger in a future “Avengers” movie.

This wake-up call was needed. Fortunately it happened to Sony first and could yield a positive change for both Hollywood and the world. On the other hand, it shows you just how effective and scary a large-scale cyberattack can be. Brace yourselves. There will be more to come.
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