Fortune Magazine Delves Into the Sony Hack

Norman Pearlstine calls Peter Elkind's investigation "one of the most important stories Fortune has ever published."

Part 1, posted today, is sub-titled: “Who Was Manning the Ramparts at Sony Pictures?” Parts 2 and 3 of the 12,000-word July issue cover story will follow online, respectively, Friday and Saturday.

Editor at large Peter Elkind begins by painting an ominous picture. On November 3, 2014, after a group of four employees from Silicon Valley-based cyber-security firm Norse Corp. arrived on the Sony lot in Culver City for a meeting, they were very surprised by what greeted them:

The visitors found their way to a small sitting area outside the office of Jason Spaltro, Sony’s senior vice president for information security, settled in, and waited. Alone. For about 15 minutes.

“I got a little shocked,” says Tommy Stiansen, Norse’s co-founder and chief technology officer. “Their Info Sec was empty, and all their screens were logged in. Basically the janitor can walk straight into their Info Sec department.” Adds Mickey Shapiro, a veteran entertainment attorney who helped set up the meeting and was present that day: “If we were bad guys, we could have done something horrible.”

From there, Elkind goes on to contradict Sony’s public statements about their fears of North Korea retaliating for The Interview, and much more, spending most of Part 1 reconstructing the politics and business of Sony preceding the fall 2014 breach. Rifling off, along the way, great lines like this:

From the moment the malware was launched – months after the hackers first broke in – it took just one hour to throw Sony Pictures back into the era of the Betamax.

There’s also a separate Editor’s Desk note from Alan Murray on the magazine’s reasoning for allowing Elkind to source information divulged by the hackers. Murray writes:

Reporters have long accepted information from unsavory sources. It’s our job to make sure that information is accurate, to determine whether it is newsworthy and to do the reporting necessary to present it in proper context. In this case we have done all that, and believe our ­decision to publish is not only justified but also necessary.

Over a period of six months, Elkind (pictured) conducted more than 50 interviews with present and past Sony executives, cyber-security experts and law enforcement officials. His previous in-depth work for Fortune includes “The Trouble With Steve Jobs” and “Inside Pfizer’s Palace Coup.”

Bookmark, read the rest of Part 1 here.

[Photo of Elkind via: @peterelkind]

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.