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Obama to announce push for new cybercrime laws

By Aileen Graef
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Obama to announce push for new cybercrime laws
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington, Virginia on January 13, 2015. President Obama discussed efforts to improve the government’s ability to collaborate with industry to combat cyber threats. UPI/Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama plans to announce legislation to protect companies from lawsuits for sharing data with the government for help in preventing cyberattacks.

The House passed an information sharing bill co-sponsored by former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., in April 2013 but the Senate failed to bring it to the floor. The adminstration threatened a veto should it pass because the White House didn't think there were enough safeguards for American's data.

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"In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector," the White House said in a statement. "Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors. All of them are going to be sophisticated, and many of them can do some damage."

The new bill would criminalize the sale of botnets and stolen data, as well as criminalize cyber attacks under RICO statutes. It would also allow the prosecution of insiders who use stolen information for their own purposes.

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The announcement comes after the North Korea hack of Sony Pictures in response to the film The Interview, which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony initially cancelled the film's release, before doing a limited release in theaters and online.

Obama has said he wished Sony had consulted with the White House and State Department before cancelling the release.

Critics of legislation of this type are concerned that it allows the government too much access to people's data with immunity from any legal action.

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"We think the current information-sharing regime is adequate," said Mark Jaycox, legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "More companies need to use it, but the idea of broad legal immunity isn't needed right now."

The president is expected to make cybersecurity one of the main topics of his State of the Union address Jan. 20.

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