Wednesday, December 10, 2014


What Other Hollywood Executives Have to Say About the Sony Hack

Weeks after their initial strike, the unidentified cybercriminals who hacked into Sony's most sensitive infrastructures continue to wreak havoc upon the entertainment company. The latest headlines to come out of the leaks revolve around a series of personal emails exchanged between Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin that offer insight into the dissolution of the partnership to make the Aaron Sorkin–penned Steve Jobs biopic, which eventually landed at Universal.
While the fiery exchange between Pascal and Rudin might be Christmas come early for those who live for industry gossip, the breach in privacy and personal security is frightening to others, especially fellow studio executives who spoke with Vulture about the situation at The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Breakfast in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
"It's horrifying to me, what's happened to them," Disney Media Networks president Anne Sweeney told Vulture. "It's absolutely terrible that we live in a world full of terrorists, and we all need to be on our guard."
Fox Television Group chairman/CEO Dana Walden agreed that the hack has had a profound impact on her company.
"It kind of terrified all of us," said Walden. "I know that 21st Century Fox, the parent company of the organizations I oversee, is taking dramatic steps to try and beef up security and make sure we're not exposed to that type of situation, but it's really terrifying. The level of betrayal of all the processes that are supposed to be in place to protect private communication and sensitive information from being exposed, it's very terrifying. I feel bad for all of my colleagues at Sony."
With regard to the heated email exchange between Rudin and Pascal (who attended the THR event but did not stop to speak with reporters on the red carpet) that involved some choice Angelina Jolie–name-calling and swear words, it's been a reality check of sorts to move things offline more often.
"I always thought emails were not private," said Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures and president of production at 20th Century Fox. "I never wrote in an email anything that couldn't be read to the world. ​​I was very careful how I used emails. I actually would often email someone, ‘Call me,’ because I didn't want to address any emotion or anything that could be misinterpreted. So I'm very careful, and I think some other people will be [more] careful."
Pascal's peers recommended that the best way for Pascal to push past the embarrassment of the email leak is to forget about it and move forward.
"Unfortunately I don't think there's a lot you can do to go back and control the damage; you just have to ignore it," said Walden. "Frankly, one thing I admire about Amy [Pascal], despite what's going on with her personal correspondence: She conducts herself like a professional, and you can see it in her communication. I don't think there's anything that I've seen so far that, if I was her, I would be embarrassed about or feel bad about."
Lansing added that while the hacking as a whole is something you have to take "very seriously," Pascal should try to get past it. Her advice: "Make a joke out of it and move on."


Emails From Hacking Reveal Studio’s Dirty Laundry

Sony Hacking: Angelina Jolie in Email Crossfire Over Steve Jobs Movie

LOS ANGELES — Salaries of its top executives. Unpublished scripts. Sensitive contracts. Aliases that stars use to check into hotels. 

Those are just some of the disclosures from a devastating hacking attack on Sony’s movie studio last month. But among all of the information that has spilled forth, perhaps nothing has riveted Hollywood more — and laid bare the machinations at the highest levels of the film industry — than a humiliating email exchange between Amy Pascal, Sony’s co-chairwoman, and the producer Scott Rudin over Angelina Jolie and a planned Steve Jobs biopic. 

On Wednesday, Sony was scrambling to cope with the fallout from the incendiary emails posted by Gawker, the tabloid news site, that revealed an ugly internal battle over “Jobs,” an Aaron Sorkin-scripted biopic of the Apple co-founder. Mr. Rudin, who is widely known for his razor-toothed missives and temper, was upset that his favored director for the picture, David Fincher, was being pulled by Ms. Jolie toward a competing Sony movie, a remake of “Cleopatra” with Ms. Jolie in the title role.

Mr. Rudin referred to Ms. Jolie as “a minimally talented spoiled brat” and pressured Ms. Pascal to shelve “Cleopatra.”

Ms. Pascal at times tried to calm Mr. Rudin, whose company is supported financially under a deal with Sony, writing, “This doesn’t need to get crazy.”

By the end, however, “Jobs” had moved to Universal, and Mr. Rudin, according to the emails, told Ms. Pascal that she had “behaved abominably, and it will be a very, very long time before I forget what you did.”

Ms. Pascal then wrote a lieutenant to “get rid of him,” an apparent reference to Mr. Rudin’s deal.
Ms. Pascal declined a request to discuss the exchange. A spokesman for Ms. Jolie said she had no comment.

“This is not about salacious emails being batted around by Gawker and Defamer,” Mr. Rudin said on Wednesday. “It’s about a criminal act, and the people behind it should be treated as nothing more nor less than criminals.”

For Michael Lynton, the chief executive of a music, television and movies unit called Sony Entertainment, the hacking scandal has ensnared him and his company at a time when he was supposed to be on a victory lap. Some in the film industry have speculated that he soon planned to climb the corporate ladder into a job that would add to his responsibilities, perhaps to coincide with a planned move of his home base from Los Angeles to New York.

Mr. Lynton declined through a spokesman to address that talk on Wednesday, but one person briefed on his plans said no change in his corporate responsibilities was in the works.

Recently, Mr. Lynton had won a battle with the activist investor Daniel S. Loeb, who sought improved profitability. The studio announced layoffs, cut its budget, recruited fresh executive talent, and secured much-needed outside movie financing. In early November, Sony confidently projected that revenue would rise by a third over the next three years.

But now Mr. Lynton is instead scrambling to advise both his superiors at the Sony Corporation in Japan and his employees on the studio’s Culver City, Calif., lot as to the extent of the damage and of steps he and they must take to contain it over the coming weeks and perhaps years.

Some computer systems remain down for fear of reinfecting them, and the studio could be two to three months away from restoring all of them.

The studio is insured against at least some of its losses. The final tab is likely to be much less than the $100 million-plus estimates that have been floated by outsiders, one person briefed on the studio’s situation said.

People briefed on Mr. Lynton’s movements said he returned at midweek from a long-planned trip to Japan, where he discussed business strategy and the breach. On Friday, he is expected to address a rare mass gathering of employees.

A veteran of the publishing industry, Mr. Lynton was named chairman of Sony Pictures, a post he still holds, in 2003. In April 2013, the studio said it had renewed his employment contract, but did not disclose its terms.

Executives at Sony say Mr. Lynton has been methodically but quietly engaged since the beginning of the attack — a posture that matches his notably cerebral approach to studio management. At his studio, marching orders are for a rapid return to business as usual.

In that spirit, the studio has rejected any notion that it should scrap “The Interview,” a planned comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, about the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, though hackers who identified themselves as the Guardians of Peace appear to cite the film as a reason for the attack.

On Wednesday, senior movie executives at Sony insisted that “The Interview” would be released as planned on Christmas, but acknowledged that additional security had been ordered for a premiere on Thursday in downtown Los Angeles.

Security experts and law enforcement continue to search for the attackers, who may never be found.
“Attribution is very difficult until there has been a full analysis and even then, it can be impossible,” said Liam O’Murchu, a senior security research manager at Symantec, the security company.

Speaking at a cybersecurity conference on Tuesday, Joseph Demarest, the assistant director with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s cyber division, said only, “There is no attribution to North Korea at this point.”

The attacks on Sony were orchestrated by command and control centers across the world, including computers at a convention center in Singapore and one at Thammasat University in Thailand, as well as others in Cyprus, Poland, Italy, the United States and Bolivia.

Mr. Lynton and other senior Sony executives have so far not spoken publicly, but memos to employees have been leaked to the media. On Sunday — perhaps in an effort to counter reports that Sony had been lax with its computer security — Mr. Lynton sent a companywide bulletin quoting Kevin Mandia, the chief executive of Mandiant, an online security firm hired to help Sony recover.
“The scope of this attack differs from any we have responded to in the past,” Mr. Mandia wrote. “The bottom line is that this was an unparalleled and well-planned crime, carried out by an organized group, for which neither SPE” — Sony Pictures Entertainment — “nor other companies could have been fully prepared.”

Representatives from the F.B.I., which has been leading the investigation into the culprits, were on Sony’s Culver City lot on Wednesday to brief employees about online security. Some Sony employees have watched in recent days as their identities have been stolen; the leaked information has been used to open false mortgage accounts and even buy women’s handbags at Beverly Hills boutiques.

The crisis recalled an episode 20 years ago when about 200 pages of the studio’s financial documents were leaked to the trade publication Variety. Alan J. Levine, then Sony’s chief operating officer, threatened legal action if the numbers were printed; with that, and some backdoor bargaining, the problem was nipped.

“I couldn’t even dream of how big a nightmare this might be,” Mr. Levine said on Wednesday. “This could actually just be the tip of the iceberg.”

Correction: December 10, 2014
An earlier version of this article misspelled, in one instance, the surname of the chief executive of the online security firm Mandiant. His name is Kevin Mandia, not Mandiant.

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