At 9:44am PST on November 21st, just three days before Sony Pictures’ network was brought down in dramatic fashion by hackers with locked screens and grisly displays of skulls, the company’s top executives received an unsolicited email.
Subject: Notice to Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
We’ve got great damage by Sony Pictures.
The compensation for it, monetary compensation we want.
Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole.
You know us very well. We never wait long.
You’d better behave wisely.
Details of the attackers’ prior warning to Sony have come to light after thousands of email messages were leaked online, from the mailboxes of hacked executives Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television, and Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal.
And, aside from scripts, box office projections, social security numbers and even Brad Pitt’s phone number, the hackers’ apparent warning to Sony Pictures has been unearthed.
The email, which claimed to come from a Gmail address belonging to someone called “Frank David”, was sent to five of Sony Pictures’ top executives, including CEO Michael Lynton.
What the poorly-worded email doesn’t reveal, of course, is precisely how much money the extortionists wanted Sony Pictures to cough up.
Furthermore, the email contains no apparent reference to the upcoming Seth Rogan comedy “The Interview: which some commentators (but not me) have speculated might have resulted in North Korea backing an operation to hack the Hollywood studio.
So just who might God’sApstls (God’s Apostles?) be?
No-one is sure. But they did warrant a mention in a message embedded within the malware that struck Sony’s hacked computer systems just days later:
â€œWeâ€™ve already warned you, and this is just a beginning.
We continue till our request be met.
Weâ€™ve obtained all your internal data including your secrets and top secrets.
If you donâ€™t obey us, weâ€™ll release data shown below to the world.
Determine what will you do till November the 24th, 11:00 PM(GMT).
Post an email address and the following sentence on your twitter and facebook, and weâ€™ll contact the email address.
Thanks a lot to Godâ€™sApstls [sic] contributing your great effort to peace of the world.
And even if you just try to seek out who we are, all of your data will be released at once.â€
Whether “God’sApstls” are related to Guardians of Peace (aka GOP) who previously claimed responsibility for the attack on Sony Pictures remains unclear.
Hopefully the apparent extortion email from the hackers will be one of the avenues that police will be pursuing in their attempt to determine who is responsible for what is turning into one of the most embarrassing corporate hacks of recent times.