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FBI launches probe after Sundance Film Festival experiences cyberattack

on January 24, 2017, 2:40pm

Following suspected Russian tampering with the presidential election, cybersecurity is on everyone’s mind. Proving the arts are just as susceptible as politicians, the Sundance Film Festival was hit with multiple denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks over the weekend, prompting an investigation by the FBI.

On Saturday, Sundance’s ticketing system was knocked out for about an hour, followed by a series of DDOS attacks on its servers. The same day saw thousands marching down Main Street in Park City, Utah during the city’s Women’s March, and business along the route reported their Wi-Fi was down the entire day. “The FBI is reviewing the case,” a rep for the film festival told The Hollywood Reporter. “At this point, we do not have any reason to believe the cyberattack was targeted towards a specific film. No artist or customer information was compromised.”

Though it doesn’t appear any particular movie was targeted, there are a number of films being screen that could have sparked retribution. Icarus, for example, tells the story of a Russian doctor who participated in and subsequently spoke out against the country’s state-sponsored sports doping scandal. “It does not paint a flattering picture of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” said consulting producer Doug Blush.

(Read: Five Films We’re Dying to See at Sundance 2017)

Another film, Evgeny Afineevsky’s Cries From Syria, takes a critical look at the Russian military’s involvement in war-torn Syria. However, the director was skeptical Putin’s people were involved in the hack. “If it was Russia, they would have blown the whole system out,” Afineevsky said.

Foreign governments aren’t the only possible suspects, as a number of Sundance films focus their lenses on known hacking groups. The New Radical examines groups like Anonymous which are the forefront of modern cyber-warfare. Zero Days, one part VR project and one part documentary, looks at the Iranian nuclear facility that was attacked by the Stuxnet virus between 2010 and 2012.

“I’ve heard a number of different theories,” said Zero Days director Alex Gibney. “There’s a number of Syrian projects. Is that the Russians who are backing [Syrian President Bashar al] Assad? There was a lot of anti-Trump sentiment here. Is it a pro-Trump group?”

Sundance opened on January 19th and will run until Sunday the 29th.