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Sony Pictures hackers say they want 'equality,' worked with staff to break in

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The hackers who took down Sony Pictures' computer systems yesterday say that they are working for "equality" and suggest that their attack was assisted or carried out by Sony employees. In an email responding to inquiries from The Verge, a person identifying as one of the hackers writes, "We Want equality [sic]. Sony doesn't. It's an upward battle." The hackers' goals remain unclear, but they used the attack yesterday to specifically call out Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, referring to him as a "criminal" in a tweet.

"We worked with other staff with similar interests to get in."

The hackers claim to have taken sensitive internal data from Sony. In an email from an address associated with the hack, a hacker who identified as "lena" was vague about how the attack was carried out. "Sony doesn't lock their doors, physically, so we worked with other staff with similar interests to get in," lena writes. "Im sorry I can't say more, safety for our team is important [sic]." The email address in question is an open account, which allows anyone to send mail from it without entering a password. That means it's possible the message was sent by someone with no relation to the attack itself. Still, because the address was included in the initial .zip file and lena identified as part of the group behind the attack, the message raises real questions about the political motives behind Sony's recent troubles. The account has also sent similar messages to other outlets, suggesting a consistent voice.

As a result of the hack, Sony Pictures employees walked into work yesterday to find the image of a glowing red skeleton on their computer. The image was covered with the phrase "Hacked by #GOP," beneath which was a list of instructions and demands. The note said that Sony was already aware of the group's demands and that the group would release Sony's "secrets and top secrets" if they did not comply by last night. That does not appear to have happened. Deadline reports that Sony's computer systems remain down today across the globe.

It appears that the hackers may have taken a large swath of data off of an internal Sony computer system. The hackers' note to employees includes a link to files that describe what has been taken and can be released. Much of it is not sensitive — like podcasts and promotional stills — but it's possible that sensitive documents are mixed in among the files. Notably, the hackers also identify themselves, at least by pseudonym and email address, among the mix of documents. One file says that the hack was carried out by the "Guardians of Peace," and includes disposable email addresses for seven different names.

Sony, so far, has not commented in any manner of detail on the hack. Last night it said that it was "investigating an IT matter." In an updated statement today, a spokesperson tells Deadline that "Sony Pictures Entertainment experienced a system disruption, which are working diligently to resolve [sic]."

11/26 1:16pm ET: Updated to include further technical details on the open Spambog address