Sony weeks away from restoring network

Sony weeks away from restoring network
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More than six weeks after the initial Sony Pictures Entertainment hack, its employees are still relying on old BlackBerry phones, an emergency notification system and text and phone trees to get work done.

And it could take several more weeks before the company’s network is up and running, CEO Michael Lynton told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview.

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“We are the canary in the coal mine, that's for sure,” Lynton said. “There's no playbook for this, so you are in essence trying to look at the situation as it unfolds and make decisions without being able to refer to a lot of experiences you've had in the past or other peoples’ experiences. You're on completely new ground.”

Hackers the government has tied to North Korea downed Sony’s network just before Thanksgiving. They not only pilfered and exposed loads of Sony’s internal documents and emails, but deleted files as well. Sony’s comedy “The Interview” — about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — apparently spurred the East Asian regime to retaliate.

"They came in the house, stole everything, then burned down the house," Lynton said. “They destroyed servers, computers, wiped them clean of all the data and took all the data."

For weeks, the company took it day by day. The FBI set up a temporary office within Sony’s lot and held hour-long “clinics” for 400 to 500 Sony employees at a time to discuss the possibilities of identity theft and security tips.

"The whole series of events, not just for myself, but for everybody in the company, had so many twists and turns to it that every time you thought you were going down a path, every time people thought we got this in hand, the next thing you knew we'd have another threatening email come through two days later or another series of events," Lynton said.

Weeks after the initial assault, the hackers started making violent threats against any theater screening “The Interview.” Within 24 hours, Sony had axed the film’s Christmas Day release. That decision sparked public criticism, including from President Obama. Days later, the studio recanted, opening the film through several online channels and in a few hundred independent theaters.

Lynton admitted the company shouldn’t have characterized the initial decision as so final.

“We probably in retrospect should have said we're exploring other options, because that's exactly what we were doing," he said. "We'd already spent a lot of money, millions and millions of dollars, to get a national audience to release a picture, the last thing you want to do is then haltingly bring the movie out,” he said.

Lynton credited Google CEO Eric Schmidt with spurring the online rollout. In a phone call, Lynton said Schmidt told him, “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

Google Play and Google-owned YouTube were two of the first outlets to agree to release the film.

Despite record revenue for an online release, Sony will not make as much as was expected from a theatrical release of "The Interview." Countless other costs from the hack are predicted to run into the hundreds of millions.

Lynton downplayed the higher estimates. Sony’s losses will be “very manageable” and “not disruptive to the wellbeing of the company,” he said.