Amy Pascal (L), Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, poses with Michael Lynton (R), Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment
Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, with Michael Lynton, the company's CEO, at the Producers Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles, Jan. 24, 2010. REUTERS

They've encountered great success in recent years with motion pictures, heading up one of Hollywood's hottest and largest studios.

However the latest challenge for the co-chairs of Sony Pictures Entertainment has nothing to do with their traditional expertise in fostering an environment to create the next hit movie, television show or running the global company's traditional distribution networks.

The newest incident facing the company is online and specifically, the security of over a million sets of personal data from users of the company's websites.

It's the latest attack on a property owned by Japan-based Sony Corp, which in April endured a weeks-long outage of its popular online videogame network known as the PlayStation Network. That outage impacted about 80 million users, who were blocked from playing interactive until the network could upgrade its security.

That attack was perpetrated by a group calling itself Anonymous, which was seeking revenge for a lawsuit brought forward by Sony against hacker George Hotz, who had been posting security exploits of the Playstation 3 system onto his personal website and in web-based videos, which gave the system additional functionality. The company used its powerful legal machinery to team up with Internet Service Providers, payment site Paypal, and even YouTube to obtain access to IP addresses of those who viewed Hotz' postings and videos.

The Anonymous group said at the time its move was just the beginning and that it would not forgive Sony for its privacy invasion. Hotz himself denied responsibility and condemned the data theft. Anonymous later said the attack was not centrally organized and blamed the attack on a splinter group.

Sony pulled the plug on its Playstation Network on April 19 after learning of the breach and didn't tell about he data theft until two days later.

Sony Corp.s No. 2 Executive Kazuo Hirai, who is in charge of PSN, made a public statement on May 1 denouncing the criminal act highlighting the widespread problem with cyber-security which also compromised credit card information for 10 million users.

The network was eventually restored although the Playstation Network, in a bid to win back users of its free service, has had to promise users a bundle of free products. It also offered identity theft protection for those affected.

However the recovery was not without some missteps. Sony Corp. Chairman, CEO and President Howard Stringer admitted some people who believed the company should have notified customers earlier about the breach had made the issue a fair question.

He said forensic analysis of that incident had was a complex, time-consuming process.

In the latest attack on Sony Pictures, however, the response came much faster, in fact it came just a day after the LulzSec hacking group claimed a breach, citing a simple attack which compromised the security of the information. The group said information such as passwords were stored unencrypted.

On Friday, Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, the Co-Chairs of Sony Pictures Entertainment placed the attack within the context of a cybercrime wave which has affected Sony companies and a number of government agencies, businesses and individuals and Sony Pictures itself as the latest victim.

We have confirmed that a breach has occurred and have taken action to protect against further intrusion, the executives said in a joint statement. They said outside experts were conducting a forensic analysis of the attack and that the company had been in contact with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The attack on Sony Pictures comes at a time when the division is touting its focus on a digital transformation of the business, putting it on the cutting edge of an industry experiencing rapid technological and global change.

Lynton and Pascal labeled the attackers as a group of criminal hackers.

Sony Pictures calls itself an industry leader in the creation and distribution of mobile entertainment, efforts to combat piracy and the digitization of its large library of entertainment. Other progress on the digital front has included 3D productions in film, television and through Blu-ray Discs.

Lynton and Pascal said they deeply regret and apologize for any inconvenience cause to consumers by this cybercrime.