north korea
North Korean hackers are targeting cryptocurrency exchanges in an apparent effort to evade international sanctions and fund the regime, security researchers said. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

North Korean hackers launched a cyber-attack to halt the production of a Channel 4 drama depicting the fictional story of a nuclear scientist kidnapped in the country.

Written by an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, plans for the production of 'Opposite Number' were announced in August 2014 for the programme that was set to include 10 episodes.

Described as "bold and provocative" the plot featured a British nuclear scientist being taken prisoner in Pyongyang, but three years later plans for the series have been shelved.

When the production was announced, Kim Jong-Un's regime responded furiously, calling on the UK government to cancel the series labelling it a "slanderous farce".

Now in an expose by the New York Times, it was revealed that hackers from the country targeted Channel 4's computer system in an attempt to halt the "ambitious" new political drama being made.

The BBC reported that Mammoth Screen – the production company making Opposite Number – was actually the entity targeted.

The hackers failed to cause any damage to the system as the attack was stopped and British intelligence was informed of the attack.

Written by Matt Charman an outline of the plot in a press release describes how: "on a covert mission in North Korea, the world's most secretive nation, a British nuclear scientist is taken prisoner, triggering an international crisis which itself must be kept secret.

"Realising their man could be forced to help North Korea finally weaponize its nuclear technology, the British Prime Minister and the US President, two leaders of very different political stripes, must work together and mobilise every level of their governments to pull the world back from the brink..."

The New York Times piece revealed how "British authorities found that the North had hacked into the television network's computer system".

And "the attack was stopped before inflicting any damage" as investors "suddenly dried up and the project effectively died".

The Interview Film Led to North Korea Hacking Sony Pictures
The cause of the hack was Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy The Interview. The FBI believe it was North Korea who hacked Sony in retaliation for the film's depiction of their leader Kim Jung-Un, and the plot which sees the stars attempt to assassinate him. Sony Pictures

Also in late 2014, North Korea reacted strongly to the Sony Pictures-produced comedy The Interview which featured the attempted assassination of North Korea's dictator.

The production company experienced a significant cyber-attack by a group called the Guardians of Peace, although US officials say they believed that attack came from North Korea.

A Channel 4 spokesman said the company does not comment on security issues but added: "This project did not progress because co-production funding was not secured by the producers to supplement the budget Channel 4 had committed to."