Hackers take down Sony Pictures' computer system

Sony Pictures Entertainment (SNE) was the victim of an extensive electronic attack that started over the weekend, according to Deadline Hollywood, which broke the story.

Responding to the breach, Sony Pictures had staffers around the world log off their computers and is investigating the situation. Some reports suggest the incident may have been part of an extortion attempt, although the motives for the attack remain unclear.

Sony Pictures did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A group calling itself #GOP, standing for Guardians of Peace, reportedly threatened to release what it claimed was sensitive corporate information unless unspecified demands were met. The group had an image of a skull appear on employees' screens with a messaging including, "We have already warned you, and this is just a beginning. We will continue until our request be met."

The Verge reports that it had contact with someone claiming to be part of the group. The person said that the hackers wanted "equality" and that they were working "with other staff with similar interests," in wording that suggests some of the group itself may include Sony Pictures employees.

The computers were still down as of today, according to Deadline Hollywood. Sony IT staff is trying to understand how the attack happened to better prevent a recurrence.

This isn't Sony's only experience in being hacked. In August, both the Sony PlayStation Network (PSN) and Sony Entertainment Network were knocked offline by attacks. Earlier this month, a group released a list of customer logins from a number of unrelated services, including PSN. In 2011, a group brought down PSN twice and compromised an estimated 100 million user accounts.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.