Homeland Security: No sign of plot against movie theaters in Sony hack

December 17, 2014, 1:11 AM UTC
Sony Entertainment CEO and Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton speaks at the company's headquarters in Tokyo on November 18, 2014. Lynton was attending the "Sony IR (Investor Relations) Day 2014" meeting. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Toshifumi Kitamura — AFP/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that it is unaware of any active plot against movie theaters in connection with the hacking of Sony Pictures.

The comment comes after the purported hackers posted a note online and sent emails to reporters, reprinted by several news sites, suggesting they may attack any cinema that screens The Interview, a Sony comedy about an assassination plot against a fictional version of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

A Department of Homeland Security official, who requested anonymity, told Fortune that the government is aware of the threat and that it will continue to monitor the situation.

“We are still analyzing the credibility of these statements, but at this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States,” the DHS official said in a statement. “As always, DHS will continue to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people.”

The unsigned note, assumed to be from the hackers who breached the computer system of Sony Pictures last month, is the first threat of physical violence in the on-going drama. The note, published on sites The Verge, Fusion, and Variety, gives the warning, “Remember the 11th of September 2001” and then threatens a “bitter fate” for those who attend screenings of The Interview around the U.S.

In light of the threat, Sony executives are telling theater owners that they would not object if they decided against show the film in their cinemas, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing an anonymous source with knowledge of the discussions. Such a strategy would fall short of Sony pulling the film entirely before its scheduled release on Dec. 25.

The fictional comedy stars actors Seth Rogen and James Franco, who portray characters involved in the assassination plot. The real Kim Jong Un has called the movie “an act of war,” spurring some to believe North Korea is behind the cyber attack, though the country has denied any involvement.

Rogen and Franco have reportedly cancelled all upcoming media appearances promoting The Interview.

The supposed threat comes after the hacker group promised yet another planned series of data dumps, which they dubbed a “Christmas Gift.” The hackers have already released a treasure trove of sensitive documents containing employees’ salary and personal information as well as embarrassing e-mail correspondence involving Sony executives.

The latest batch of hacked documents reportedly contains the entire e-mail account of Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton, including thousands of messages covering a period of about six years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. On Sunday, the company asked the media to stop publishing excerpts from the countless company e-mails that have already hit the web.

Sony Pictures declined to comment on the apparent threat as well as the latest leaked documents.

(This story was updated with additional information)