NEW YORK - Hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace made ominous threats Tuesday against movie theaters scheduled to show Sony Pictures' film The Interview.
The group also released a trove of data files, what it called the beginning of a "Christmas gift." But the group included a message warning that people should stay away from places where The Interview will be shown. Referencing 9/11, it urged people to leave their homes if they are near theaters showing the film.
The Interview is a comedy in which Seth Rogen and James Franco portray television journalists involved in a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Its New York premiere is scheduled for Thursday at the Landmark Sunshine theater, and it is expected to hit theaters nationwide on Christmas. It premiered in Los Angeles last week.
In a statement, the FBI said it was aware of the threats and "continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate this matter." It declined to comment on whether North Korea or another country was behind the attack. Speculation about a North Korean link to the Sony hacking has centered on that country's denunciation of the film. Over the summer, North Korea warned that the film's release would be an "act of war that we will never tolerate." It said the United States would face "merciless" retaliation.
Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners, would not comment on the threats.
For the latest data dump, the hackers are using disposable e-mail addresses provided by a French-based service called yopmail.com.
Frederic Leroy, who started up the yopmail site in 2004, was surprised to learn the Sony hackers were using yopmail addresses. He said there was no way he could identify the users.
"I cannot see the identities of people using the address . . . there is no name, no first name," he said. He said that yopmail is used around the world but that there are "hundreds and hundreds" of other disposable e-mail sites.
Separately Tuesday, two former employees of Sony Pictures Entertainment sued the company for not preventing hackers from stealing nearly 50,000 Social Security numbers, salary details and other personal information from current and former workers.