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How can the U.S. join forces with the private sector to fight cyberextortion?

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      North Korea today blamed President Obama for Sony’s decision to release the controversial film “The Interview”, which tells the story of a fictional plot to kill North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.  The recent hacking of Sony, which was widely blamed on North Korea, has caused the Obama administration to consider new steps to protect against cyber attacks.

    Carol Lee of “The Wall Street Journal” is in Hawaii, where the president is vacationing, and joins us now from Honolulu.

    So, Sony was the first kind of big, red flag.  What does the White House think is the consequence of that for other companies around the U.S.?  Do they think that this is the cyber threats could increase?


      They do.  And their main concern is that what happened with this Sony attack is, as one administration official put it, marks a crossing of a threshold into this kind of new wave of cyber attacks that are essentially cyber extortion, where a nation state or another organization or group hacks into a company or perhaps the government and uses that as leverage to try to get the company or the government to meet certain demands.

    In the instance with Sony, it was that they pull this movie “The Interview,” and initially, what was concerning to the White House was that Sony agreed to do that, which basically, you know, rewarded this action.  And, you know, despite the reversal on that, the White House feels like this still marks a crossing of the threshold and, you know, the possibility of seeing additional attacks like this is real because it essentially worked.

    So, the White House is exploring some new ways to try to get the government and the private sector on the same page in this and to try to combat this so that these sorts of things are minimized in the future.


      So, what are some of the initiatives that the White House is taking?


    Well, this whole thing is new.  This is a new area in cyber security.  And the government and the private sector are not necessarily entirely in sync in some of these things, and that was — that was exposed in the very public disagreement between President Obama and Sony executives over whether or not to release the film.

    So, first, you know, obviously the president said that he wished Sony had talked to them.  So, I think you’ll try — probably see some additional communication at very high levels at the White House.

    And then cyber-security legislation, the president called on Congress again to pass something stricter.  The hope in the administration is that companies now have an incentive to try to get some sort of regulations or standards in place because what’s happened until now is they’ve resisted that.  There’s different — the Chamber of Commerce and other group — business-lobbying groups have said setting certain minimal standards for groups — for industries like banking or energy would be burdensome and could lead to litigation if somehow they had those standards and an attacker was able to still penetrate.


      And some companies have been bush pushing back because they don’t want to give of the government too much access to their content or users’ information, right?


      That’s right.  It’s a really strange relationship between the government and the private sector because typically you have a government that acts as a regulator and companies that are regulated.  And in this instance, it’s not like that.  And when you throw in these added national security concerns, it creates an entirely different relationship, and a new dynamic that sort of both sides are trying to feel their way through.  And it’s very uncertain right now, and the whole process is sort of piece meal.

    But now, the hope is, at least from the administration’s side, is that this will lead to some sort of way in which that they can get further — closer together and more on board as they try to navigate this strange relationship where businesses need the government to be involved in things like this because the government is the one who can come in and actually, you know, figure out who did it and do criminal investigations and prosecutions.


      All right.  Carol Lee of “The Wall Street Journal” joining us from Honolulu — thanks so much.


      Thank you.  Thanks for having me.  

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