- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Critics said Thursday that Sony Pictures’ decision to cancel a movie release in the face of cyberattacks directed by North Korea will encourage more costly attacks, and a top Senate Republican laid the blame squarely on the Obama administration.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and likely the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Sony’s decision to pull the movie “ultimately arose from the administration’s continuing failure to satisfactorily address the use of cyber weapons by our nation’s enemies.”

“From Iranian and Russian attacks on American banks to China’s orchestrated campaign to steal military secrets from our defense contractors, the administration’s failure to deter our adversaries has emboldened, and will continue to embolden, those seeking to harm the United States through cyberspace,” Mr. McCain said in a statement.

He said if elected chairman of the committee next month, he will form a subcommittee to focus on cybersecurity and “hold the administration accountable for its failure to institute a meaningful strategy for combating these increasingly brazen and dangerous actions.”

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council at the White House said the administration is “working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice.”

“The U.S. government closely monitors all reports of breaches affecting U.S. companies, U.S. consumers and U.S. infrastructure,” said NSC spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan. “We know that criminals and foreign countries regularly seek to gain access to government and private sector networks — both in the United States and elsewhere.”

Criticism continued to pour in Thursday over Sony’s decision to cancel the release of the movie “The Interview,” a comedy that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Former Bush administration counter-terrorism adviser Frances Townsend said the studio’s decision sets “a horrible precedent.”

“This is not a one-off. The studios will face this again,” she said at a forum.

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov of Russia said on his Twitter account: “If threats from poor Stalinist prison camp of North Korea can do this, imagine Russia & China, with huge resources. They are watching.”

The studio canceled the $42 million flick after cyberattacks released internal emails from studio executives, and a shadowy group calling itself Guardians of Peace warned of 9/11-style violence at movie theaters that would show the picture.

Rep. Patrick Meehan, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on cybersecurity, said President Obama should sign cybersecurity legislation to protect infrastructure, a measure approved by Congress and awaiting the president’s signature.

“American businesses, financial networks, government agencies and infrastructure systems like power grids are at continual risk,” Mr. Meehan said. “They’re targeted not just by lone hackers and criminal syndicates, but by well-funded nation-states like North Korea and Iran. A lack of consequences for when nation states carry out cyberattacks has only emboldened these adversaries to do more harm.”

He said the attack on Sony “shows the dire need to upgrade our cyber defenses.”

“We need to ease the sharing of threat information between government and the private sector and strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to attacks,” Mr. Meehan said. “Congress took important steps last week by passing bipartisan legislation that builds our cyber-defense capabilities — it’s time for those bills to be signed into law and implemented.”

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