President Obama says that the United States will respond to North Korea over its cyberattack on Sony Pictures. He declined to say what that response will be, saying only that it will be "proportional." Obama said that a number of options are being worked up by his staff and that he will choose what to do based on what he feels is "appropriate to the nature of this crime."
"We anticipate, occasionally there will be breaches like this."
In a lengthy discussion of his view on the cyberattack, Obama took a number of digs at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying that he may be a leader whose "sensibilities probably need to be offended" by a movie. "I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen," Obama said. "I like Seth ... but thinking that was a threat to them? That gives you an impression of what kind of regime that is."
Obama says that the US government will work with the film industry and other private sector businesses in an attempt to better prepare for future attacks. "We anticipate, occasionally there will be breaches like this," Obama said. "They will be costly. They will be serious. But we can't start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we can stop going to a football game because there's a possibility of a terrorist attack, any more than Boston didn't run its marathon this year because of the possibility that someone might cause harm. Let's not get into that way of doing business."
"In this interconnected digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyberassaults both in the private sector and the public sector," Obama said. "Our first order of business is to make sure that we ... prevent those attacks from taking place." Obama said that he hopes strong cybersecurity laws will be passed when Congress returns next year, saying that better communication is needed between the public and private sectors.
"Even as we get better, you know the hackers are going to get better too," Obama says. "Some are going to be state actors, some of them are going to be non-state actors. Many of them are going to be sophisticated, and some are going to do some damage."
"Yes, I think [Sony] made a mistake."
Obama stressed that despite the ability of hackers to take these actions from afar, that cannot be allowed to interfere with American business. "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States."
Obama was very critical of Sony's reaction to the attack, saying that he felt the studio made the wrong decision in canceling the release of The Interview. "Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There are threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced," Obama said. "Having said all that: yes, I think they made a mistake."
"Sony is a private company worried about liabilities," Obama added later. "I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, 'Do not get into a pattern in which you are intimidated by these kind of criminal attacks.' Imagine if instead of a cyberthreat, someone had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen discs. Is that what it takes for you suddenly to pull the plug on something?"
Like many who have been criticizing Sony's decision, Obama expressed concern over how scrapping The Interview might set a bad precedent for free speech. "If somebody is going to be able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what will happen when they see a documentary they don't like," Obama said. "And imagine what will happen when producers start engaging in self-censorship so that they don't offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended."