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Leaks, threats, lawsuits spell more trouble for Sony

Bernard Condon Associated Press

NEW YORK – Threats of violence against movie theaters. Canceled showings of “The Interview.” Leaks of thousands more private emails. Lawsuits by former employees that could cost tens of millions in damages.

The fallout from the hack that began four weeks ago exploded Tuesday after the shadowy group calling itself Guardians of Peace escalated its attack beyond corporate espionage and threatened moviegoers with violence reminiscent of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Department of Homeland Security said there was “no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters,” but noted it was still analyzing messages from the group, dubbed GOP. The warning did prompt law enforcement in New York and Los Angeles to address measures to ramp up security.

Those security fears spurred Sony to allow theater chains to cancel showings of the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy “The Interview,” which has been a focus of the hackers’ mission to bring down Sony. Carmike Cinemas, which operates 247 theaters across the country, was the first to cancel its planned showings, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It remains to be seen if other chains will follow suit.

GOP also released a trove of data files including 32,000 emails to and from Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton in what it called the beginning of a “Christmas gift.”

And two ex-Sony film production workers filed suits alleging the company waited too long to notify nearly 50,000 employees that data such as Social Security numbers, salaries and medical records had been stolen.

The filing follows a lawsuit this week from two other former employees accusing the studio of being negligent by not bolstering its defenses against hackers before the attack. It claims emails and other leaked information 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 the warnings.

In “The Interview,” Rogen and Franco star as television journalists involved in a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Speculation about a North Korean link to the Sony hacking has centered on that country’s angry denunciation of the film. Over the summer, North Korea 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 film’s New York premiere is scheduled for Thursday at Manhattan’s Landmark Sunshine, and it is expected to hit theaters nationwide on Christmas Day. It premiered in Los Angeles last week.

The FBI said it is aware of the GOP’s threats and “continues to work … to investigate this matter.”

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