If we have learned anything this week, it is probably that you should always be careful what you write in your emails.

I suppose in some way we should be grateful that one of the most effective acts of cyber terrorism in recent memory should be so concerned with a relatively trivial Hollywood film. But then, the fact that Sony studios announced it would be pulling comedy The Interview from its release schedule certainly sends a worrying message to any other ambitious hacker out there.

The film, in case you have missed this week’s fuss, concerns an attempt by the CIA to send a hapless talk show host and his producer on an undercover mission to do away with dictator Kim Jong-Un.

Sony has been dying a death of a thousand cuts – or rather leaks – as the hackers released details of behind the scenes discussions, budgetary decisions, upcoming plans and indiscreet – or downright insulting – emails about movie stars Of course, who the hackers are remains a mystery – there is firm speculation that the so called Guardians of Peace are related to North Korea, but no-one seems to have confessed so far. And threats of terrorist attacks over the film seem to have had their intended effect and forced the movie from its release.

Obviously there have been far graver acts of terrorism this week – the despicable school massacre in Pakistan takes that appalling crown – but this just goes to show the power a well aimed hack by faceless cyber-criminals can have.

And this is all over something relatively minor – a comedy film, which will, in itself, have minimal impact anyway.

Of course the real issue is that such actions are an affront to freedom of speech and illustrate the dangers of kowtowing to blackmail. After years of reluctance or steadfast refusal to negotiate with terrorists on any number of issues, it seems momentous – and shocking – that any high-profile organisation should have rolled over like this.

And has the media been complicit in this by publishing so much of the illegally hacked information? The information is spreading like wildfire across social media, it has been said, so it becomes extremely hard not to report it on news channels. And to do so, it has been said, serves as a wake-up call to the need for cyber-security. Critics suggest it is more about maximising web hits, and it is irresponsible reporting. There are probably elements of truth to all of these suggestions.

Whether the film is any good, of course, remains to be seen (and may remain to be seen for some time). I am just glad the hacking community was not up to the job of derailing the very funny and similarly North Korea-mocking movie Team America a decade or so ago.

Ironically of course, and in the long-term, the move virtually guarantees the film will be seen by more people than it ever would have had this cyber storm not descended. At some point a copy – pirate or otherwise – will doubtless find itself on the web and then be downloaded left right and centre. It has a profile now that no amount of marketing budget could have paid for, making the whole fuss pretty redundant anyway. Of course, that might not do much to recoup Sony’s costs.

But this sets a chilling, precedent, and is a seriously high-profile wake-up call to the power cyber-criminals can wield in our online-reliant world.