Dec 31, 2014 · 2 minutes

The group taking credit for the November hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment has also threatened a news organization, according to a report from the Intercept, which obtained a Federal Bureau of Investigation bulletin warning about the group's activity.

The bulletin didn't name the news organization threatened by the hackers. But Matthew Keys, the former social media editor for Reuters, has posted what he says are images of the threat that seem to identify CNN as the target of the hacking group's warning.

Reporting on the Sony hack has been troubled from the start. Sony itself has warned journalists against reporting on information found in its stolen documents, and has also threatened Twitter with legal action if it doesn't delete tweets about the files.

Those efforts haven't achieved much so far, as I wrote when the Twitter spat occurred:

It’s unclear if Sony Pictures expects its efforts at controlling this information to be successful or if it’s simply looking to cover its ass should it be sued for failing to protect this sensitive information. It’s putting on a good show either way, but that’s not enough.

Sony Pictures is fighting the many-headed beast known as the Internet, and it has yet to separate a single skull from all the tubes and tissues connecting it to the world at large. Now it seems the threats are coming from the other end of the hack, leaving the news organizations uncovering details about efforts to curb Internet freedoms or just how concerned Sony employees should be about the hack between the opposing sides.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that there's yet to be any indication of an attack against CNN or any other news organization by the hacking group. The bad news is that if someone does decide to attack a publisher the results could be disastrous, as executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation Trevor Timm told the Intercept before its report:

"While it’s hard to tell how legitimate the threat is, if a news organization is attacked in the same manner Sony was, it could put countless sensitive sources in danger of being exposed—or worse. [...] This FBI bulletin is just the latest example that digital security is now a critical press freedom issue, and why news organizations need to make ubiquitous encryption a high priority."
Journalists face a multinational corporation using everything at its disposal on one side and a hacking group which claims to have been the cause of a global controversy on the other. At this point it's hard to tell which side should scare reporters more.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]