The head of Sony has called the cyberattack which derailed the release of comedy The Interview “vicious and malicious” in his first public comments about the devastating hack.
Chief executive Kazuo Hirai thanked the company’s supporters and praised those who stood up to the hackers.
“Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association – those are important lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business,” Mr Hirai said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
“I am very proud of all the employees and the partners we’ve worked with as well who stood up against some of the extortionate efforts of the criminals that attacked Sony Pictures and its employees.”
Mr Hirai, speaking in Las Vegas, described the attack was “malicious”
Sony employees, he added “were victims of one of the most vicious and malicious cyberattacks we have known, certainly in recent history”.
The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is now showing in hundreds of cinemas in the US, in addition to online platforms.
Video:Sony Hack Timeline
“I want to thank all the partners who made this possible, media who supported the launch, and those who have gone out to see the movie,” Mr Hirai said.
“Thank you for being part of that great event,” he added, before ending with a quip referring to another Sony Pictures Entertainment film released during holidays: “Annie is a great movie as well.”
The attack on the Japanese company’s film and television unit led to an online leak of employee information, unreleased films and embarrassing in-house emails.
The hackers also mounted threats against Sony over the planned Christmas release of The Interview, which depicts a fictional CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
Gallery: ‘The Interview’ Film Pulled: Hollywood Takes to Twitter
American investigators have said the North, which has repeatedly denied involvement, was behind the attack, but some experts have raised doubts about the conclusions of the FBI probe.
US President Barack Obama last week authorised a new layer of sanctions on several Pyongyang institutions and officials, in retaliation for the alleged cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
North Korea lashed out at the fresh sanctions, criticising Washington for refusing a proposed joint investigation.