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Obama administration wants private companies to share cyber threats

The Obama administration is offering companies legal protection if they share information about cyber threats with certain government agencies.

The proposal, which the president discussed at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) Tuesday, is an effort to help the government better thwart and respond to cyber attacks. NCCIC would bring that information to the relevant federal agencies and Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations groups, which would be developed and operated by the private sector to enhance information sharing.

"This is a matter of public safety of public health and most of this infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector. So neither government nor the private sector can defend the nation alone. It's going to have to be a shared mission -- government and industry working hand in hand," the president said.

The increased focus on cyber security comes in the wake of the Sony Pictures hacking last November, and after other cyber attacks on major retailers like Target and Home Depot. Just yesterday - minutes after the president proposed legislation to strengthen consumer cyber security -- the Twitter and YouTube channels of U.S. Central Command were hacked by sympathizers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The cyber proposals Mr. Obama is rolling out this week will be included in his State of the Union address on Jan. 20.

In order to receive liability protection, the proposal would require companies to comply with measures designed to protect consumer data, like removing unnecessary personal information and protecting any information that must be shared. It will also require the Department of Homeland Security and the attorney general to work with the privacy and civil liberties board, among others, to develop formal guidelines.

The White House is also trying to modernize law enforcement techniques to combat cyber crime by allowing the prosecution of the sale of botnets, or networks of malware-infected machines, criminalize the overseas sale of stolen American financial information, and expand law enforcement's ability to stop the sale of spyware used to commit identity theft. The administration also wants to update the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act so that it applies to cyber crimes.

The White House has portrayed its various cyber proposals as nonpartisan and hopes to win congressional support for the legislation it is crafting for the president's State of the Union address. Although there seems to be congressional appetite for more cyber legislation in the wake of the Sony hack, Congress has previously tried and failed to pass comprehensive cyber security legislation.

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