Top Sony Exec Comments on Cyber Attack

Kazuo Hirai, Sony CEO

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Top Sony Exec Comments on Cyber Attack
| published January 6, 2015 |

By R. Alan Clanton
Thursday Review editor

At a trade show in Las Vegas this week, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai broke months of silence to tell an audience that he “would be remiss” if he didn’t publicly discuss the storm of controversy surrounding November’s cyber-attack against one of his biggest subsidiaries—Sony Pictures Entertainment, located in Culver City, California.

Hirai called the deplorable cyber-attack “vicious and malicious,” and commended Sony Pictures’ employees and leadership for navigating the filmmaking division through the worst crisis in the company’s history. Hirai was in Las Vegas to attend—and also speak at—the Consumer Electronics Show—an annual wingding of representatives of hundreds of companies and firms which manufacture electronics, computers, software, and technology gear. Among the other industry leaders to speak this week are the chiefs of companies like Samsung, Intel, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, GM, Philips, Comcast, CBS, Fox, and Cisco.

Hirai’s remarks, which came at the beginning of his speech, were the first time since the powerful CEO has commented publicly about cyber-attack since it occurred in November.

The attack was launched by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace. Overnight, the hackers took control of Sony Pictures’ computer network, stealing files, commandeering the email and messaging platforms, and pilfering through hundreds of spreadsheets and records. The group copied tens of thousands of emails—releasing them to the press—and stole digital copies of several motion pictures, which were then distributed to bootleggers online. The hackers also stole personal information about employees, including cell phone numbers, addresses, and personnel files.

Though Hirai did not engage in specifics about the cyber-attack, he did defend the company’s actions, and also said he supported the concepts of freedom of press, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly—American concepts which were threatened not only by the cyber-attack, but also by the vague promise of violence against theaters which agreed to premier the film The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

The White House and the FBI have assigned blame for the attack on the government of North Korea, which had expressed anger and outrage at the premise of the movie The Interview, in which Rogen and Franco portray two amateur TV reporters recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un. After North Korea failed to gain any attention for its concerns by protesting to the United Nations, Pyongyang issued repeated threats against Sony Pictures, warning of dire consequences if the film were released.

Hirai’s also thanked the many thousands of fans who went to see the movie after weeks of back-and-forth about the film’s screenings. Harai did not take any questions about the hack and did not elaborate past a few opening comments.

The Sony Pictures cyber-attack may yet prove to be very costly to the parent company. It faces lawsuits from several former employees for personnel data stolen during the security breach. Those plaintiffs are claiming that Sony was aware that its computer security system was lacking adequate firewall protection. The cyber-attack and the resulting exposure of internal files and documents has also raised the possibility of legal action by actors and actresses whose personal information was revealed and exposed.

On the other hand, online and internet sales of The Interview have already exceeded $16 million as of this week, with more sales expected throughout early January. After pulling the film from theatrical release for fear of violence against theaters and malls, Sony—along with several independent theater chains and individual movie houses—released the film at certain locations in some cities.

The official position of the White House and the FBI is that North Korea is behind the attack, but some computer and security experts question whether North Korea’s elite military-cyber unit truly has the technical prowess to have executed such a massive and complex attack.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Was It Worth All The Fuss?; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; December 26, 2014.

What Now for Sony Pictures; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; December 18, 2014.