By Jennifer Martinez - 03/13/13 11:11 AM EDT
President Obama will meet with CEOs on Wednesday afternoon to discuss efforts to improve cybersecurity amid growing concerns within the administration over attacks from China targeting American businesses.
The president will discuss efforts to address the cyber threat facing the country and get the executives' feedback on how the government and private sector can forge a relationship to improve cybersecurity in the United States, according to The White House. The meeting will be held in the Situation Room and attendees include AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Northrup Grumman CEO Wesley Bush.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president wants to hear from executives "out in the field" about their cybersecurity concerns and "convey to them how seriously he takes the threat."
"The sharing of information and working with the private sector is vitally important in the comprehensive approach the president believes we need to take to deal with it," Carney said.
Other executives participating in the meeting include Honeywell International CEO David Cote and Frontier Communications CEO Maggie Wilderotter.
The president signed an executive order last month that's aimed at safeguarding the country's power grid, water plants and other critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. During his State of the Union address, the president spoke about the need for the country to improve its cybersecurity and for Congress to pass legislation that would better secure critical computer networks from hacker attacks.
On Monday, Tom Donilon, Obama's national security adviser, warned China to take "serious steps" to prevent hackers from breaking into U.S. computers and stealing business secrets.
The remarks were the administration's most direct yet in response to Chinese cyber spying.
The White House meeting also comes a day after the nation’s top cybersecurity chief and the heads of the intelligence services warned lawmakers that cyberattacks posed the top security threat to the U.S.
Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the number of cyberattacks on Wall Street would “grow significantly” this year.
Newly confirmed CIA Director John Brennan called the cyber threats “significant” national security challenges.
The vulnerability of the nation's cyber networks also hit home for the president after a website on Tuesday claimed it hacked first lady Michelle Obama's financial information, as well as information for other top government officials and U.S. celebrities. The FBI and Secret Service have launched an investigation into the matter.
The president would not confirm whether the website's claims were true in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, but said hacker attacks are "a big problem."
"We should not be surprised that if you've got hackers who want to dig in and devote a lot of resources, that they can access people's private information," Obama said. "It is a big problem."
— Amie Parnes and Justin Sink contributed to this report. This post was updated at 2:00 p.m.