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Obama Again Pushes Cybersecurity Info Sharing With Businesses

  • Alex Villarreal

U.S. President Barack Obama talks next to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (L) at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, Jan. 13, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama talks next to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (L) at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, Jan. 13, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for new cybersecurity legislation to promote greater information sharing between the government and private companies.

Speaking Tuesday at the government's National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, the president said it is now "too hard" sometimes for the two sides to exchange information because of legal and liability issues and companies' concerns about revealing their vulnerabilities.

Obama said he raised the issue Tuesday with leaders in the new Republican-controlled Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and that they all agreed "this is a threat that has to be addressed."

The U.S. leader said he is "confident" bipartisan legislation can be crafted soon that would protect companies that share cyberthreat information from lawsuits, as well as ensure the government protects privacy and civil liberties even as it works to protect the nation's information networks. He urged Congress to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security "without delay," saying U.S. national security "should never be subject to partisan political games."

The president's push comes one day after hackers attacked the Twitter and YouTube accounts of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S.-led airstrikes on Islamic State insurgents in Iraq and Syria. The hackers said they were loyal to the Islamic State.

It also follows in the wake of the November 24 hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment - an attack Obama said Tuesday destroyed data and computer hardware that will be "very costly" for Sony to clean up.

Obama said Monday's hack of the military social media accounts has had no impact on military operations and appears not to have leaked any classified information. But he said the investigation is ongoing and it is a reminder that cyberthreats are "an urgent and growing danger."

The White House said the new cybersecurity legislation would also require companies to notify consumers about data breaches, several of which have hit large U.S. retailers in recent months. The measure would also criminalize the sale of stolen information.

Similar legislation has already stalled in the U.S. Congress. Civil libertarians have objected to giving the government too much oversight over consumers' private financial information, while some conservative lawmakers have voiced concerns about the possible creation of another government agency.

Obama said the White House will convene a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection next month at Stanford University in California. He said the discussion will bring together people from all sides of the debate to make sure these issues are worked through "in a public, transparent fashion."

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