The United States is "hugely vulnerable" to cyberattacks, President Obama said in an interview with Re/code's Kara Swisher. Mr. Obama said he considers China, Russia and Iran to be the top cyberthreats among state-actors.
"China and Russia are very good. Iran is good. And part of what we're constantly engaged in is a dialogue with these countries in the same way that we engaged in a dialogue around nuclear arms, indicating to them it doesn't serve anybody's purpose for us to attack in ways that may end up eliciting responses and everyone's worse off," Mr. Obama told Swisher.
The president does not consider North Korea's attack against Sony to be an act of war, rather a serious act of "property damage [and] commercial theft." He said North Korea's hackers are not particularly sophisticated but noted the damage they were able to inflict on Sony.
U.S. responses to cyberattacks are "more like basketball than football," the president said, suggesting that there is a flow in the tactics the government uses to address hacks. These tactics are not clearly offensive or defensive, he said. "Things are going back and forth all the time."
On Friday, the president attended the White House's summit on cybersecurity at Stanford University.
Regarding the once-secret government programs revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the president admitted that the U.S. was "probably a little slow" in responding.
The president said Americans should have encrypted online information, like he and his family, but that privacy has to be balanced with legitimate law enforcement inquiries.
"There's no scenario in which we don't want really strong encryption," he said. "The narrow question is gonna be if there's a proper request for - this isn't bulk collection, this isn't sort of fishing expeditions for government - where there's a situation in which we're trying to get a specific case of a possible national security threat, is there a way of accessing it?"
"I am sympathetic to law enforcement because I know the pressure they're under to keep them safe ... in fairness, the people who are in favor of air-tight encryption also want to be protected from terrorists," Mr. Obama said.
The president said he watches ballgames on TV but sports highlights on his iPad. He still uses a BlackBerry and said he'll probably try the Apple Watch. Asked what the hashtag for his administration would be, the president replied "#yeswecan."