Disney chief Bob Iger confirmed the company received a threat from cybercriminals who claimed to have stolen the digital copy of a movie — but that the studio believes the claims were false.
“To our knowledge we were not hacked,” Iger said in an interview with Yahoo Finance published Thursday. “We had a threat of a hack of a movie being stolen. We decided to take it seriously but not react in the manner in which the person who was threatening us had required.”
Iger added, “We don’t believe that it was real and nothing has happened.”
According to some reports, the movie in question was Johnny Depp-starrer “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” But piracy-news site TorrentFreak, citing an email exchange with someone purporting to be behind the extortion attempt, reported that the hackers told Disney they stole an incomplete cut of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
The unidentified hackers had demanded that Disney pay a ransom — in the untraceable bitcoin crypto-currency — or else they would release the purloined movie in five-minute chunks. According to Iger, Disney refused to pay anything.
Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is set to debut Friday, May 26, and its next movie release is “Cars 3,” which hits theaters June 16. “The Last Jedi” is slated to bow Dec. 15, 2017.
Word of the threat leveled at Disney came just three weeks after 10 episodes of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” season five were stolen by a hacking ring — which subsequently did release them on piracy networks after the company did not cave in to the extortion demands. That same group also claimed it stole at least three dozen additional TV shows and movies.
The most devastating hack against a movie studio came against Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, when attackers employed by the North Korean regime took down the majority of Sony’s computer infrastructure, and stole and released internal company emails and unreleased movies. The government was retaliating for the studio’s comedy film “The Interview,” which involves the assassination of the country’s dictator by two TV journalists who are recruited by the CIA as spies. Michael Lynton, who was CEO of Sony Pictures at the time, recalled last week at a conference that he wasn’t sure if the studio would survive the attack.