Obama Declines to Call Sony Hack 'Act of War'

US President Barack Obama has vowed a state-led response to North Korea's cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, but stopped short of calling the incident an act of war.

"We will respond," he told reporters. "We will respond proportionately and in a space, time and manner that we choose."

In an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday, the president described the attack as more akin to vandalism: albeit a "very costly, very expensive" one. He did say that US officials are considering the possibility of reinstating North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"We’re going to review those through a process that’s already in place," said the president. "I’ll wait to review what the findings are."

Sony is dealing with the repercussions of a massive data breach, after a cyber-attack forced the IT department to shut down the corporate network. The attackers call themselves the Guardians of Peace, and it's believed that North Korea is behind the incident, in retaliation for the release of The Interview. That film features Seth Rogan and James Franco as hapless journalists recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Pyongyang has called the film 'an act of war' but has vehemently denied its involvement in the attack. It has offered to aid in a "joint investigation" of the hacks, which, if refused, would result in "grave consequences" for the US.

The FBI has officially concluded North Korea to the cyber-attack.

So far the GOP has leaked the salary and Social Security numbers for thousands of Sony employees, private emails between executives, information about the future of the Spider-Man franchise, upcoming movies like Fury and Annie online, and the script to the next James Bond movie.

But it was the group's latest threat, "Remember the 11th of September 2001," that sent theatres running for cover. After that, Regal, AMC and all other theater chains in the US decided to boycott The Interview, citing terrorism concerns. The studio then shelved the film indefinitely, prompting the president to publicly say that the studio "made a mistake" in that regard, and that he wished that the executives had “talked to him first.”

He added: "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States."

Sony Pictures' chief executive and chairman Michael Lynton defended the decision to CNN, and said that it was the decision of the major chains to refuse to screen it that prompted the studio’s decision—in essence, that it was a business decision only.

"We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down.”

And, despite initially saying that there are no further plans for releasing the $42 million film in any format, even when it comes to DVDs and cable video-on-demand access, Sony now says that it’s actively surveying alternatives to enable it to release the movie on a different platform.

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