Obama: Hack Was 'Cyber Vandalism,' Not 'Act of War'

Says US reviewing whether N. Korea should be returned to state terror list
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2014 7:40 AM CST

With the FBI confirming that North Korea was behind the Sony hack, President Obama tells CNN in an interview airing today that "it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive," not "an act of war." Nevertheless, he says that the US is reviewing whether to throw Pyongyang back on the list of state sponsors of terror. "I'll wait to review what the findings are," he says. That could be dicey: The AP notes that it requires the State Department to blame Korea for terror under "a definition that traditionally has referred to violent, physical attacks rather than hacking." North Korea had spent two decades on the list until the Bush administration removed it in 2008; only Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria remain. Other highlights from the interview this morning on State of the Union:

  • On Sony's decision to pull the plug on The Interview: "I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they have business considerations that they got to make. Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was."
  • On setting a dangerous precedent: If "a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company's distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem. ... This is a matter of setting a tone and being very clear that we're not going to be intimidated by some cyberhackers. And I expect all of us to remember that and operate on that basis going forward."
  • Because it doesn't stop there: "And it's a problem not just for the entertainment industry, it's a problem for the news industry. CNN has done critical stories about North Korea. What happens if in fact there is a breach in CNN's cyberspace? Are we going to suddenly say, are we not going to report on North Korea?"
(More North Korea stories.)

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