Sony Pictures systems seized by hackers

Sony Pictures Entertainment shut down its systems yesterday after its computer network was compromised and the company was blackmailed by a group of online hackers.

Staff computer screens in all US offices were reportedly taken over by the image of a menacing red skeleton and a message from a group that introduced itself as "#GOP".

The message purportedly read: "Warning: We've already warned you, and this is just a beginning. We continue till our request be met. We've obtained all your internal data including your secrets and top secrets, if you don't obey us, we'll release data shown below to the world."

An unnamed source on Bloomberg News speculated that an organisation called Guardians of Peace could be responsible for the attack, though the accuracy of that assertion has not been confirmed as yet.

Computer network shut down as a precaution

The message told Sony Pictures that it had until 11pm the same day to decide what it would do.

The company has decided to completely shut down its computer network while it works to get to the bottom of the issue. Estimations of how long the problem will take to resolve range between one day and three weeks.

Numerous Twitter accounts owned by Sony Pictures were also compromised, but have now reportedly been reclaimed by the company. Back in January, Microsoft suffered a similar attack when several of its Twitter accounts were hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army.

Employees were instructed to turn off their computers and laptops, and also to turn off the Wi-Fi on all mobile devices. Many employees were allegedly allowed to go home as they were unable to do any work without access to computers.

Comments on a Reddit article (which has since been deleted) claimed that private information belonging to many high-profile figures in the film industry could potentially be accessed and abused.