Obama discusses cybersecurity with CEOs

President Obama met with executives from finance, technology, energy and defense companies Tuesday in the White House Situation Room to discuss cybersecurity. 

The meeting is part of the administration's effort to convince private companies to better protect their computer systems from hackers. 

According to a White House official, the CEOs at the meeting were Ajay Banga of MasterCard, Steve Bennett of Symantec, Wes Bush of Northrop Grumman, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Renee James of Intel, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Joe Rigby of Pepco Holdings and Charlie Scharf of Visa.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker also attended, according to a Commerce Department spokeswoman. 

President Obama issued an executive order earlier this year directing the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a Commerce Department agency, to come up with cybersecurity guidelines for critical infrastructure companies, such as power plants, banks and telecommunications companies.

NIST proposed the first draft of the guidelines last week and the final version is expected in February. 

But the standards are entirely voluntary, and without legislation, there is little the administration can do to pressure companies to comply with them. 

Obama issued the executive order after Congress failed to pass his preferred cybersecurity bill. 

Republicans argued that the Democrats' cybersecurity bill would have imposed burdensome regulations on critical infrastructure companies, but Democrats worry that without mandatory regulations—or at least strong incentives—critical computer systems will be vulnerable to attack.

They warn that hackers could disrupt a bank, shutdown a power grid or cause trains to collide.