Sony president and chief executive Kazuo Hirai has broken his silence on the hackers who infiltrated its network in an attempt to stop the release of its latest film, The Interview.
The Guardians of the Peace group posted several unreleased films on the internet and leaked a number of confidential emails and well as the personal details of stars such as Cameron Diaz and Angelina Jolie.
Ahead of his keynote speech at CES, Hirai described it as “the most vicious and malicious cyber attacks in recent history” but said he was proud to have stood up to “the extortionist efforts of criminals”.
Sony initially withdrew the film - a comedy about journalists recruited to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – but the decision attracted widespread criticism with President Barack Obama weighing in on 19 December to say the company made a "mistake" in cancelling the planned release.
Five days later, Sony released the movie online. It went on to rake in $15m (£9.6m) and became the company’s most-downloaded title of all time within just 72 hours.
"I have to say that I'm very proud of all the employees, and certainly the partners who stood up against the extortionist efforts of criminals, and worked tirelessly, sometimes for days on end to bring you The Interview," Hirai continued.
"I have to say that freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association - those are very important lifelines for Sony and our entertainment business".