- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lawmakers wrestled Tuesday with how to define and respond to cyberattacks on the U.S. after recent hacks by North Korea and supporters of the Islamic State terrorist movement,

“If you have a cyber Pearl Harbor, is that an act of war?” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, Virginia Democrat, at a briefing the House Foreign Affairs Committee held to get up to speed on the issue.

Officials from the State Department, Treasury Department and Homeland Security Department all declined to say whether the Sony hack qualified as an act of terrorism

Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, said he thought it was terrorism and said it should earn North Korea a place on the U.S.’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“I don’t know why we are so timid in doing that, it seems like the right thing to do, the logical thing to do,” he said. “I hope the State Department eventually makes up its mind before more of these attacks occur against the United States.”

As retaliation for “The Interview,” a movie depicting the assassination of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean government hacked into Sony Pictures’ computer systems late last year and leaked embarrassing emails. The hackers also threatened violence in any movie theater that showed the movie, prompting the studio to pull its release — though it later released it online and in some independently owned theaters.


SEE ALSO: U.S. Central Command Twitter account hacked: ‘ISIS is already here’


The Obama administration has definitively said North Korea was responsible for the hack, and last week the president issued an executive order placing new sanctions on the country.

President Obama, meanwhile, announced a new push Tuesday to win passage of cybersecurity legislation that he said would promote more cooperation and information sharing between the government and private sector.

The bill will urge private entities to share any cyberthreat information with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. In exchange, companies will be eligible for targeted liability protection if they also take steps to protect Americans’ private information, White House officials said.

The White House announced a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection to be held at Stanford University next month.

Some lawmakers had specific ideas for more retaliation against those who sponsor cyberattacks. Rep. Brad Sherman, California Democrat, said the U.S. should find a way to broadcast “The Interview” into North Korea.

“I can’t think of anything we can do for $8 million that would better express our dedication to the First Amendment and pose difficulties for the North Korean regime,” he said, adding that he would show them the director’s cut of the movie, which includes a more gruesome scene of the North Korean leader being killed.

The administration said it is investigating the breach of U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts by hackers. Backers of the Islamic State claimed credit for using the accounts to post warnings to U.S. troops to watch their backs.

No military or confidential information was compromised, said Brig. Gen. Gregory J. Touhill, deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity operations and programs at the Department of Homeland Security.

“This was a commercial space, a Twitter account. There was no compromise and no evidence of penetration into government specific military computer systems,” he said.

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