TOKYO — North Korea has denied hacking Sony Pictures’ computer systems in retaliation for its movie “The Interview,” which revolves around a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. But the secretive state has called the crippling cyberattack a “righteous deed” and has suggested that its “supporters and sympathizers” might be taking revenge on its behalf.
The statement, issued Sunday by the official Korean Central News Agency, comes as investigators home in on the source of the attack, which brought Sony, one of Hollywood’s biggest studios, to a near-standstill just before Thanksgiving.
“We do not know where in America the Sony Pictures is situated and for what wrongdoings it became the target of the attack nor [do] we feel the need to know about it,” the KCNA statement said.
“But what we clearly know is that the Sony Pictures is the very one which was going to produce a film abetting a terrorist act while hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK by taking advantage of the hostile policy of the U.S. administration towards the DPRK,” it said, using the official acronym for North Korea.
Sony Pictures Entertainment is preparing to release “The Interview,” a comedy in which James Franco and Seth Rogen play journalists who land a rare interview with Kim and are recruited by the CIA to take him out. The movie is to be released in the United States on Dec. 25.
When news of the film emerged in June, North Korea vowed “merciless” counter-measures if it were released. The nation appeared to have made good on that promise, with a devastating Nov. 24 attack by hackers that knocked out the studio’s computer network.
At least five new movies from Sony Pictures, including the musical “Annie” and the Brad Pitt World War II movie “Fury,” were posted to copyright-infringing file-sharing hubs soon after the attack. But there was no proof that those postings were related to the hack.
In response to the allegations that it was responsible, North Korea “called upon the world to turn out in the just struggle to put an end to U.S. imperialism, the chieftain of aggression and the worst human rights abuser.”
The FBI is investigating the Sony hack and issued a flash warning last week to businesses about “destructive malware,” though it did not specifically link the alert to the Sony incident. Sony has hired security consultants to try to figure out who is responsible.
One theory is that hackers supportive of North Korea are behind the attack.
The United States should “know that there are a great number of supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK all over the world,” KCNA’s Sunday’s statement continued. “The righteous reaction will get stronger to smash the evil doings.”
Over the weekend, someone claiming to be the leader of a hacking group threatened Sony employees and their families in an e-mail message, according to the technology news site Re/code.
“What we have done so far is only a small part of our further plan,” reads the message, written in halting English and received by some Sony Pictures employees, Re/code reported. “Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email address below if you don’t want to suffer damage. If you don’t, not only you but your family will be in danger.”
A Sony representative issued a statement to Re/code saying: “We understand that some of our employees have received an email claiming to be from [the hackers]. We are aware of the situation and are working with law enforcement.”