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Obama's executive order urges companies to share cyberthreat data

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Attacks on the computers of large corporations were constantly in the headlines last year and now President Obama is taking steps that he says will help fight back. A month ago he announced a push for new legislation that would lay out ways for companies to share information about hacking activity so it can be investigated, while also protecting the privacy of consumers. Pushing that through Congress has been a failure since 2011, so he's following up with an executive order that mandates companies to do so. "There's only one way to defend America from these cyberthreats, and that is with government and [private] industry working together, sharing appropriate information," Obama said at today's White House cyber security summit at Stanford. The announcement comes just a few days after the President unveiled a new cyber warfare agency intended to "quickly assess and deter cyberthreats."

In addition to making things more open, the executive order also calls for developing a set of standards for sharing information among companies; making it easier for organizations to form sharing agreements with the newly formed National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC); and also giving companies a more streamlined way to access classified data. Obama also noted that major companies like Apple, Intel, and Bank of America have already signed on to the government's new cyberthreat framework.

Of course, not everyone's happy about it -- the order is missing steps that would reduce legal liability for companies that share too much information, and tech companies are still reeling from information revealed in the Snowden leaks about how the government is using them to spy on their customers in the US and abroad.

The event is being webcast live on the White House website, which is key since CEOs of several big tech companies decided to skip the event. Still, Apple CEO Tim Cook will be there, along with executives from Google, Facebook, Paypal and others. Pushing through surveillance reform and supporting strong encryption (which has been criticized by politicians as something that would help criminals) would probably go a long way towards garnering support, but without it, we might not see any changes at all before the next Sony, Anthem or or Target incident happens.

Devindra Hardawar contributed to this report.

[Image credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]

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