Sony’s CEO, Kaz Hirai, has spoken out about the hacking of Sony Pictures in November, which saw thousands of private emails and documents distributed online by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace.
The group later claimed its actions were a protest against the release of the Sony Pictures movie The Interview, which features a fictional CIA plot to assassinate the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, though researchers have subsequently said a former employee may have planned the attack.
Introducing the company’s press conference at the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday, Hirai said: “Sony Pictures Entertainment, former employees and certainly current employees, were unfortunately the victims of one of the most vicious and malicious cyber attacks that we’ve known in recent history.”
Hirai went on to thank employees and partners who he said: “Worked tirelessly 24 hours a day, sometimes days on end,” to organise a cinematic and digital online release for the film in North America.
In December, the hacking group released a statement threatening cinemas with terrorist violence if they showed The Interview.
After several major chains decided not to run the film, Sony announced that its theatrical release would be delayed indefinitely – prompting criticism from actors, free speech advocates and president Obama, who called the decision a mistake. The company rescinded, organising a limited theatrical run, mostly through independent cinemas, as well as a digital release.
“Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association – those are very important lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business,” Hirai continued. “The interview is now available through multiple online venues as well as though our satellite and cable partners and over 580 independent theatres in the United States.”
Hirai himself was a victim of the hack, which exposed email conversations between several high-ranking executives at Sony. In a message to Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal, Hirai asked for alterations to the movie’s gory assassination scene, in which Kim Jong Un is engulfed in a fireball. Pascal then communicated his requests to Seth Rogen explaining that such an intervention from the Sony parent company was unprecedented.
Despite claims that the hacking was orchestrated by North Korea itself, the country has vociferously denied its involvement. The FBI investigation into the cyber-attack continues.
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