President urges cyber law to tame ‘Wild West’

President Obama is pointing to North Korea’s massive hack of Sony Pictures as proof that Congress needs to get to work on a new cybersecurity bill. 

“Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West,” Obama said during his end-of-the-year press conference in the White House briefing room.


He pointed to “weak states” such as North Korea, which on Friday the Obama administration blamed for the Sony hack, as well as “non-state actors” who may launch cyberattacks against countries or major corporations.

“This is going to be part of the reason why it’s so important for Congress to work with us and get an actual bill passed that allows for some of the information-sharing we need,” he said.

“Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that prevents these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies. This is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.”

The massive hack at Sony, which ultimately led to the studio’s decision to cancel the release of “The Interview” after threats of violence against some theaters, is the latest in a long string of hack attacks that have plagued companies including Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase in recent months.

While Congress passed a handful of cyber bills before leaving Washington this month, lawmakers have largely failed to pass major reforms that companies say are critical to protecting U.S. networks.

Obama’s call for legislation allowing companies to better share information with the government and other firms mirrors concerns from many executives and advocates of stronger cyber defenses. Being able to effectively communicate without having to fear liability would allow companies to make sure there are no blind spots on the networks, supporters say.

Lawmakers in both chambers have introduced major information-sharing bills, but it has largely been stymied by privacy concerns.

Critics of the Senate’s Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing Act say that it would give spy agencies like the National Security Agency too much information about private citizens.

Obama had previously threatened to veto a similar bill in the House, called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, partly out of concern that it doesn't do enough to protect privacy.