Sony had to dig up old BlackBerrys to function during hack

When Sony Pictures' computers were hacked on Thanksgiving, its employees were forced to use older technologies to keep things running, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Staff relayed details about the hack from one person to another via phone, and had to haul in old machines to issue physical checks instead of transferring salaries through bank deposit. Sony execs also reverted to old BlackBerry company phones -- as they can send and receive emails through their own servers. These reports don't only shed light on what happened (and what continues to happen) behind the scenes at Sony, they also give us a glimpse at how the investigation was handled.

While the company quickly got in touch with the feds, employees initially thought it was nothing more than an inconvenience they could patch up within a few weeks. Even Sony Entertainment Chief Executive , Michael Lynton, told NYT that it took 24 to 36 hours for the situation to sink in and "to fully understand this was not something [they] were going to be able to recover from in the next week or two." Thanksgiving weekend then became a crucial and extremely busy period for the company, as the internal IT team struggled to get Sony's emails working again.

It took 24 to 36 hours for the situation to sink in... to fully understand this was not something [they] were going to be able to recover from in the next week or two.

Meanwhile, the feds and a cyber-security team from FireEye Inc. set up their own headquarters nearby. They suspected North Korea a week into the investigation and eventually determined that the hackers ( the Guardians of Peace) stole log-in credentials from a systems administrator, harvested data from the computers and used malware to delete them all. The WSJ says FireEye's investigators still aren't 100 percent sure whether they've completely blocked off the hackers from Sony's systems. But if the company's network remains secure, it could be up and running again within the next eight weeks.

In addition to illustrating how the company dealt with what turned out to be an extensive security breach, the reports also detail how Lynton acted away from the public eye. Turns out he was already talking to Google when Sony announced that it doesn't have future release plans for The Interview, which led to a barrage of criticisms (even from the president) for what people conceived as giving in to terrorist demands. He also personally contacted cinema chain bosses in an effort to control any damage he's done after blaming them for refusing to show the movie.

If you recall, many cinema chains opted not to show The Interview since the GOP threatened everyone who wanted to see it in theaters, telling people to "remember the 11th of September 2001." Sony, however, ended up releasing it via Google Play, YouTube, PlayStation and Xbox stores and iTunes, and showing it in hundreds of independent theaters in the US.

[Image credit: Marcus Ingram via Getty Images]