President Barack Obama took a few minutes during his news conference on Friday to talk about the recent hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. His specific comments arrived about 46 minutes into the conference and revealed that he wished Sony Pictures had conversed with him first before the company pulled the controversial movie, The Interview.
"Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage," Obama said. "There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all of that, yes I think they made a mistake."
In a nutshell, Obama said that both the public and private sectors should expect to be hacked. To lower the chances, websites and networks need to be "hardened," and the government is working with both sectors to make that happen. There's a lot of work that needs to be done, he said, and both sectors are nowhere close to where they need to be in regard to cyber security.
"One of the things in the new year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cyber security laws that allow for information sharing across private sector platforms as well as the public sector so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place," he said.
Obama also pointed out that as the United States gets better at protecting itself against cyber attacks, the hackers are going to get better as well and will consist of both "state actors" and "non-state actors." Still, the United States can't let dictators impose censorship on American films and other media.
"If somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary they don't like, or news reports they don't like," he said. "Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of somebody's, whose sensibilities probably need to be offended."
That's not what America is all about. Had Sony Pictures come to him first before pulling the plug on the controversial movie, he would have insisted that the company not get into a pattern where criminal attacks have become intimidating. He compared the hack to thieves breaking into the Sony offices and trashing the computers and stealing discs. Is that what it takes to pull the plug on a project?
Obama concluded this portion of the press conference by joking about the movie, indicating with a small smirk that North Korea attacked a movie studio. That, he said, should say something about the regime. "We will respond," Obama promised. "We will respond proportionally, and we will respond in a place and time and manner that we choose."
The FBI announced on Friday that it had sufficient evidence to link North Korea to the Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) hacks. The malware used in the attack is linked to other malware that North Korea has used in the past. The tools also have similarities to a North Korean cyber attack carried out in March 2013 against South Korea.
"We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there. Further, North Korea's attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States," the FBI said on Friday.