President Obama: U.S. will not be intimidated by cyberattacks

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Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama says he doesn’t consider North Korea’s Sony hack “an act of war.”

“It was an act of cyber vandalism,” Obama said in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley that airs Sunday on “State of the Union.”

But he stuck by his criticism of Sony’s decision to cancel its plans to release the movie “The Interview,” which depicts the cartoonish assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after the country threatened attacks against theaters that showed it.

Obama said in a Friday news conference that Sony made “a mistake,” and that he wished the company had called him first. That led Sony executive Michael Lynton to tell CNN that Obama and the public “are mistaken as to what actually happened.” He blamed movie theater companies that opted not to show the film, saying they forced Sony’s hand.

Obama shot back, saying: “I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they have business considerations that they got to make. Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was.”

The President told Crowley that his problem wasn’t with Sony specifically, but with the precedent the company’s decision set.

The FBI on Friday pinned blame for a hack into Sony’s computer systems on North Korea. Obama said both foreign governments and hackers outside government present cyber threats that are part of the modern business landscape.

“If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company’s distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that’s a problem,” Obama said.

“And it’s a problem not just for the entertainment industry, it’s a problem for the news industry,” he said. “CNN has done critical stories about North Korea. What happens if in fact there is a breach in CNN’s cyberspace? Are we going to suddenly say, are we not going to report on North Korea?

“So the key here is not to suggest that Sony was a bad actor. It’s making a broader point that all of us have to adapt to the possibility of cyber-attacks, we have to do a lot more to guard against them.”

 

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