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Obama Cites Sony, CENTCOM Hacks in Call for More Robust Cybersecurity Laws

(White House photo)

(White House photo)

Citing recent cyber attacks against the Pentagon and Sony Pictures Entertainment, President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to pass sweeping legislation aimed at boosting US cybersecurity.

“With the Sony attack that took place, with the [Pentagon Central Command] Twitter account that was hacked by Islamist jihadist sympathizers yesterday, it just goes to show how much more work we need to do — both public and private sector — to strengthen our cybersecurity to make sure that families’ bank accounts are safe, to make sure that our public infrastructure is safe,” Obama said during a meeting with congressional leaders.

The White House issued a statement detailing measures the president will reportedly propose during next week’s State of the Union Address. These include improving consumer confidence by tackling identity theft, safeguarding student data through the Student Digital Privacy Act, passing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and adopting a voluntary code of conduct for utilities and third parties in order to “improve consumer awareness, choice and consent, and controls on access.”

Obama also called for more law enforcement tools to fight cyber crime, including prosecuting individuals who sell botnets, criminalizing the foreign sale of US financial information like credit card and bank account numbers, expanding federal authority to shut down botnets engaged in criminal activity and deterring the sale of spyware used to commit identity theft.

Additionally, Obama proposed greater information sharing between the government and the private sector on cyber threats. Under the president’s proposal, corporations would be granted protection from liability related to the sharing of private data.

“Neither government nor the private sector can defend the nation alone,” the president said during a Tuesday afternoon visit to the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia. “It’s going to have to be a shared mission — government and industry working hand in hand.”

The White House said the new proposal “promotes better cybersecurity information sharing between the private sector and government, and it enhances collaboration and information sharing amongst the private sector.”

CBS News reports Obama discussed the issue of cybersecurity with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the hope that Democrats and Republicans could work together to tackle the problem.

“I’m hopeful that in the spirit of cooperation and putting America first, we can be in position where, at the end of this year, we’ll be able to look back and say we’re that much better off than we were when we started the year,” Obama said.

Boehner countered that the Republican-controlled House has already passed numerous measures aimed at preventing cyber attacks against private corporations, but that these bills often died in the Senate, which until this month was controlled by Democrats.

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