Sony Corp Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai on Monday praised employees and partners of the company's Hollywood movie studio for standing up to "extortionist efforts" of hackers who attacked Sony Pictures Entertainment in November. In his first public comments on the massive cyberattack, which the U.S. government has blamed on North Korea, Hirai said current and former employees of the studio were "the victims of one of the most vicious and malicious cyberattacks we have known in recent history." The attack debilitated Sony Pictures' computer network in November and led to the online leaks of unreleased movies and embarrassing emails. The company was also criticized for cancelling the release of the comedy "The Interview" after threats from the hackers, before reversing that move following criticism from U.S. President Barack Obama. "Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business," Hirai said during a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He did not take questions from reporters. In addition to the cyberattack, Sony has also been grappling with weak sales in its electronics business. It is heading for its fifth net loss in six years, and has lowered its outlook for the sixth time under Hirai's watch.
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