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Sony CEO: We were the victim of a vicious and malicious hack

Kazuo Hirai discussed being the target of "extortionist efforts of criminals" who hacked Sony Pictures for making the political satire film, "The Interview."

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Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
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Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai, after decrying the hackers who unleashed an attack on Sony Pictures, encouraged CES attendees to see one of the studio's newest comedies: Annie. Sarah Tew/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai noted his dismay at being the target of a notorious hack that sparked an international controversy between the US and North Korea.

Sony was "unfortunately the victim of one of the most vicious and malicious cyberattacks we've known certainly in recent history," Hirai said during a keynote presentation at this year's Consumer Electronics Show here.

The cyberattack, revealed in November, exposed a trove of e-mails and documents that detail the inner workings of Sony's studio business, including embarrassing emails that prompted public apologies by Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairwoman Amy Pascal. The US believes North Korea was responsible for the attack, which was provoked by the controversial comedy "The Interview." Seth Rogen and James Franco star as journalists who are asked to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Hiari thanked Sony's employees who "worked tirelessly" to bring the movie to audiences in the US and Canada. "I'm very proud of all the employees and certainly the partners that we've worked with as well who stood up against some of the extortionist efforts of the criminals that actually attacked Sony Pictures and its employees."

Hirai at last year's CES confab.
Hirai at last year's CES confab. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After a group of hackers t hreatened terrorist attacks on theaters showing the film, Sony initially canceled the movie's Christmas Day release. But it backtracked after celebrities and President Barack Obama chastised the company. Sony released "The Interview" in a limited number of independent theaters and online through services such as YouTube on Dec. 24.

The movie, which had a budget of around $44 million, grossed $15 million online during its opening weekend.

Hirai touted the availability of the film and thanked Sony's distribution partners -- and the people who watched the movie. It is now being shown at more than 580 independent theaters in the US, Hirai said.

He also joked with CES attendees. "By the way, "Annie" is a great movie as well."

CNET's live blog of Sony's CES 2015 press conference