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    Obama to Focus on Cybersecurity Ahead of State of the Union Address

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    Obama will focus on the legislation and executive actions on strengthening US cybersecurity in the coming days. The measures are expected to be highlighted in his sixth State of the Union address.

    MOSCOW, January 12 (Sputnik) – US President Barack Obama plans to announce a series of measures aimed at strengthening US cybersecurity and protecting privacy of US citizens following the high profile hacking scandals of 2014, notably the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the Associated Press reported.

    The new legislation and executive actions will be highlighted in Obama’s State of the Union address. However, the US president will make some of the initiatives public before delivering the speech on January 20.

    This week Obama will hold a series of events focused on cybersecurity, according to the AP. He is expected to visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center on Tuesday. Obama will also hold a bipartisan congressional meeting to urge lawmakers to support cyber legislation.

    The events will focus on tackling identity theft, protecting consumer and student privacy, as well as increasing cooperation between businesses and the government in the cybersecurity sphere.

    Cybersecurity has been high on the US agenda after a series of data breaches involving major banks, retailers and individuals. Although some of them created little stir, the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment shortly before the company was set to premiere "The Interview", a comedy about a fictional CIA assassination plot on North Korean leader, made headlines for several weeks.

    In November 2014, hackers launched an attack on Sony, stealing terabytes of sensitive data, including Social Security numbers, emails and salaries of both celebrities and Sony employees. The US claimed North Korea was behind the massive data breach.

    Despite the destructive power of such attacks, the US lacks military advantage to deal with threats in the cybersphere, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday. "Cyber can be incredibly destructive, it can be disruptive. … It can destroy hardware, it can disable critical infrastructure, which could lead to loss of life. And I think, those capabilities are out there," Dempsey told host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

    "In every domain … we generally enjoy a significant military advantage. But we have peer competitors in cyber," Dempsey added. "We don’t have an advantage. It’s a level playing field. And that makes this chairman very uncomfortable."

    Alternatively, US mass surveillance remains a major concern in terms of cybersecurity. A recent study, conducted by the PEN American Center, showed that spying activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other US government authorities led to curtailing the freedom of expression around the world. The study found that 75 percent of writers in countries classified as "free" are very or somewhat worried about government surveillance in their countries.

    Moreover, the real scope of NSA surveillance remains unknown. In late December, former NSA executive Thomas Drake told Sputnik News Agency that, the "NSA has gone to great lengths to hide its secret mass dragnet surveillance programs because they are non-compliant and violated the Constitution."

    In the past the US Congress has considered new legislation to restrict NSA’s collection of information, but has never passed any laws.

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    Tags:
    hackers, cybersecurity, State of the Union, cyber attack, Martin Dempsey, United States
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