Sony Pictures Network Held Hostage by Unknown Hackers

Contributing Writer
Updated

This screenshot, allegedly from a computer at Sony Pictures, was first posted to reddit.This screenshot, allegedly from a computer at Sony Pictures, was first posted to reddit.
"If you don't obey us, we'll release data shown below to the world," read an ominous image taken from a computer at Sony Pictures Entertainment today (Nov. 24), after a malicious hacker or hackers apparently attacked the company network. 

Activity at Sony Pictures has reportedly ground to a standstill, with most employees' computer screens replaced by an eerie picture of a skeleton overlaid with the title "Hacked By #GOP."  The image, a photograph of which was posted to Reddit today by someone who claims a friend at Sony Pictures sent it to him, also claims that Sony Pictures' "secrets" will be leaked online at 11 p.m. GMT tonight (6 p.m. EST).

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The ominous image also claims, "We've already warned you, and this is just a beginning. We continue till our request be met."

It's not clear who is behind the hack or who "#GOP" is, or what the attackers' goals even are, although an unnamed source told Bloomberg News that the acronym stood for "Guardians of Peace."

According to the original Reddit post, the skeleton image has appeared on "every computer all over Sony Pictures nationwide." Sony Pictures Entertainment is a Culver City, California-based motion-picture and television production company, one of the Big Six Hollywood studios, and a division of Japanese technology and entertainment giant Sony.

Sony Pictures has told its employees to turn off their computers and disable W-Fi on their mobile devices, Variety Magazine reported.

Links written on the image led to compressed files that some Reddit users downloaded. At the time of writing, the files were simply lists of thousands of filenames, plus a "read me" file stating that anyone who wanted the full data could contact certain email addresses.

The files reportedly included password lists, private encryption keys, financial documents in various Microsoft Office formats.

Gert van Dijk, a computer-science student and employee at security firm Fox-IT in the Dutch city of Delft, said on Twitter that he had seen lists of files that appeared to be bank statements, network diagrams, payroll information, contracts and non-disclosure agreements.

"If this Sony hack data is true and released, I think Sony Pictures is bankrupt," van Dijk tweeted. "It seems just ALL company data is in there." 

Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.