Whistleblower site WikiLeaks has released a searchable database online of tens of thousands of emails and documents stolen by hackers in a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment last year.
Sony condemned WikiLeaks’ move, which is the latest blow for the entertainment giant struggling to get past the attack that caused millions of dollars in damage. It said the website was helping the hackers disseminate stolen information.
“We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks' assertion that this material belongs in the public domain,” the company said in a statement.
But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: “This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there.”
The archive apparently includes Sony conversations with Downing Street and Hollywood figures, with more than 170,000 emails and 30,000 other searchable documents.
Although the archive was previously made available online by hackers, it had a compressed format that was not easily searchable. Typing the term Downing Street, for example, in the Google-like search tool immediately yielded 37 results on WikiLeaks’ website.
An e-mail that appears to be sent to Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, in April last year purporting to come from Gabby Bertin, who spent years as Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman, reads: “Re the very famous names on the list – we will certainly be inviting Kevin Spacey and George Clooney. I have to seek guidance on the others – not because they are not very worthwhile and important people to have there, but as you know our press is vicious and they might attack us for having too many big names on the list.”
In November, Sony was subject to a cyber-attack weeks before releasing The Interview, a film denounced by the Pyongyang government and in which the main characters assassinated the communist state’s leader Kim Jong-Un. However, no official link was made between the US and North Korea.
A group calling itself Guardians of the Peace took credit for the attack and exposed tens of thousands of sensitive documents, including emails, a script for the next James Bond movie, unreleased versions of several other movies and other confidential documents.
Sony at first shelved The Interview movie, but following widespread public support for the film - including from US President Barack Obama - the movie eventually enjoyed a limited cinematic release, taking $11 million at the box office. It was also made available simultaneously for online rental and purchase, earning $40 million in rental, becoming Sony Picture's most successful digital release to date.