CEOs ask Obama for soft approach to cyberattacks

CEOs from various industries have agreed that cyberattacks are a threat, but a "soft touch" is required.


The threat of cybercrime is now a top priority of U.S. government agencies, but corporate leaders have requested a soft approach in ways the government plans to tackle it.

On Wednesday, President Obama and his security advisors met with leaders hailing from the technology, finance and energy industries to discuss how the government should respond to such risks. While corporate figures agreed that action had to be taken, they did request a flexible, "light touch" from the government when it comes to future legislation, according to Reuters.

The discussion included representatives from AT&T, Exxon Mobil, JPMorgan Chase & Co, the Bank of America, and American Electric Power. After the meeting, energy efficient firm Honeywell International's David Cote told CNBC:

"I think we all agreed -- and that included the administration and the president -- that we want as light a government touch on this as possible. Flexibility is important, because this is the kind of threat that changes very quickly. The threat is real, there is a consistent, persistent threat here that we need to be concerned about as a country."

The discussion on the future of America's cybersecurity coincides with reports that Obama's wife, Michelle, has recently been a victim of hacking, and together with other household names including Beyonce, have had their credit report details stolen and posted online. Obtained by breaching the defences of three credit agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax have confirmed that incidents occured where information was unlawfully obtained by infiltrators.

When asked to comment on these reports, Obama said:

"It would not shock me if some information among people who presumably have pretty good safeguards against it, still gets out."

On Tuesday, two separate meetings concerning the risk to businesses and national security took place with the Senate Intelligence Committee, and another before the Senate Armed Services committee. Both meetings, including security and intelligence officials, suggest that while "catastrophic" attacks are unlikely in the near future , cybercrime has the potential to become far greater a threat than physical warfare or terrorism -- able to tear down country infrastructure, interrupt core services and put both citizens and businesses at risk.

In response to the threat, new members are being recruited to the U.S. government's " cyber warrior teams " which are meant to guard military systems, deploy teams against national threats, and operate offensively if necessary. Although budget costs have made the scheme's future unclear, officials hope that the department will be in full operation by the end of 2015.

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