President Obama says in an interview to be broadcast Sunday morning that he did not think the Sony Pictures hacking attack was an act of war by North Korea.
"I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive,” Obama said on CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley," according to a transcript. “We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately, as I said.”
Obama said he was “sympathetic to the fact” that Sony has business considerations to make in its decision to cancel the release of “The Interview,” a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in theaters on Christmas Day following terror threats.
Sony’s chairman fired back after Obama last week said it was a “mistake” to cancel the release.
“We have not caved, we have not given in, we have persevered and we have not backed down,” Michael Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Friday.
”And, you know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was,” Obama said.
“But what I was laying out was a principle that I think this country has to abide by,” he added. “We believe in free speech. We believe in the right of artistic expression and things that powers that be might not like.”
“And if we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt, through cyber, you know, a company's distribution chain or its products and, as a consequence, we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem,” he said.
“What happens if, in fact, there is a breach in CNN's, you know, cyberspace?” Obama asked. “Are we going to suddenly say, well, we'd better not report on North Korea?”
Obama stressed that Sony is not “bad actor,” adding that the nation has to “adapt to the possibility of cyberattacks.
“We have to do a lot more to guard against them,” Obama said.
“My administration has taken a lot of strides in that direction, but we need Congress to pass a cybersecurity law. We've got to work with the private sector and the private sector has to work together to harden their sites,” he added.
“But in the meantime, when there's a breach, we have to go after the wrongdoer. We can't start changing how we operate.”