Executives from several large U.S. corporations convened at the White House Wednesday to meet with President Barack Obama and discuss how the private sector can improve U.S. cybersecurity strategy.
Several high-profile CEOs attended the meeting, including Honeywell International Inc.'s David Cote, AT&T's Randall Stephenson and JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Jamie Dimon. Working with the private sector -- and getting businesses to cooperate with each other -- is "vitally important" to President Obama's comprehensive approach to a U.S. cybersecurity strategy, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a press briefing Wednesday, March 13.
"He wants to hear from out in the field what they're -- in the private sector -- experiencing, what their concerns are, what their challenges are, what they hope to see in terms of action in Washington," Carney said.
The nation's vulnerability to cyberattacks has been in the spotlight of late. A report released in February by Alexandria, Va.-based security firm Mandiant Corp. found that since 2006, China has systematically made cyberattacks against American interests. Earlier this year, U.S. General William Shelton warned of Iran's expanding cyber-capabilities, and household names such as Apple, Facebook, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have seen their systems attacked.
Several attempts at passing comprehensive U.S. cybersecurity legislation have failed in recent years, as opposition from industry and civil right groups has stymied the initiatives. The lack of progress on cybersecurity legislation led Obama to issue a cybersecurity-related executive order in February, stating that the spate of cyberattacks requires that operators of critical U.S. infrastructure improve cybersecurity information sharing, as well as implement risk-based standards.
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The meeting at the White House Wednesday was designed to continue the dialogue on how to foster this cooperation, as well as garner support as President Obama continues his push for cybersecurity legislation.
"He also wants to convey to them how seriously he takes this issue and what he believes the right steps are moving forward," Carney said during the press briefing. "And he certainly hopes that out of this meeting and the many others he has on this topic, that we will build the kind of consensus necessary to compel Congress to take appropriate action."
Previous discussions with corporate leaders about cybersecurity, as well as the fallout from the recent cyberattacks, have shown Obama the destruction that data breaches can wreak on corporate operations -- and the nation as a whole, Carney said.
"That is why he wants to have this conversation and why he thinks this is an important part of building a consensus about moving forward, about why it's necessary for our economy and for our national security," Carney said.
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