Las Vegas, Jan 6 (IANS/EFE) Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai has broken his silence on the hacking of the corporation’s computer systems which has been blamed on North Korea, describing the attack as “vicious and malicious”.

Hirai is on a visit to Las Vegas to attend the annual Consumer Electronics Show, and used the opportunity to make his first public address since the incident which has led to a new wave of tension between Washington and Pyongyang.

“Both Sony Pictures Entertainment former employees and certainly current employees were unfortunately the victims of one of the most malicious cyber-attacks we have known in recent history,” Hirai said at a conference Monday in the city’s Convention Center.

He thanked everyone who raised their voices against the move to blackmail Sony by information thieves whom he termed as criminals, without explicitly mentioning their place of origin or their links to North Korea.

The cyber-attack took place in November and exposed personal data of thousands of Sony’s employees, including their social security numbers.

It also gave an ultimatum to Sony against releasing “The Interview,” which was set to open in movie theatres in the US and Canada on Christmas Day.

The film is a comedy which narrates a farcical plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Its release was cancelled because of the threat of a terrorist attack by the hackers, but was finally distributed through digital platforms and screened in 580 theatres in North America.

“I have to say freedom of speech, freedom of expression — those are important lifelines of Sony and our entertainment business,” Hirai said.

An FBI investigation into the incident concluded that the attack was orchestrated from North Korea.

The regime termed “The Interview” to be an act of war against North Korea but denied having had a hand in the hacking episode.

US President Barack Obama Friday authorised the imposition of new sanctions against North Korea in response to the attack on Sony.

This week, the regime termed these measures by Washington to be “hostile”, according to the North Korean state-controlled KCNA agency.

“The persistent and unilateral action taken by the White House to slap sanctions against the DPRK (North Korea) patently proves that it is still not away from inveterate repugnancy and hostility toward the DPRK,” a foreign ministry spokesman of the regime was quoted as saying by the KCNA.