Obama warns proportional response to cyber attacks on Sony

President Obama said yesterday that the US ''will respond proportionally'' against North Korea for its destructive cyber attacks on Sony Pictures, The New York Times reported. At the same time, he faulted the Hollywood studio for giving in to intimidation when it withdrew ''The Interview,'' the satirical movie that provoked the attacks, before it opened.

Obama avoided specific discussion of what kind of steps he had planned against the reclusive nuclear-armed state, but said the response would come ''in a place and time and manner that we choose.''

Obama who spoke at a White House news conference before leaving for a two-week vacation in Hawaii, said American officials had been ''working up a range of options'' that he said had not yet been presented to him.

According to a senior official, Obama would likely be briefed in Hawaii on those options. Obama's threat came only hours after the FBI said it had assembled extensive evidence that the cyber attack that debilitated the Sony computers has been been organised by the North Korean government.

If he were to make good on it, it would be the first US retaliation for a destructive cyber attack on the country's soil or to have explicitly accused the leaders of a foreign nation of deliberately damaging US targets, rather than just stealing intellectual property. The most aggressive response till now has been the largely symbolic indictment of members of a Chinese Army unit this year for stealing intellectual property.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Entertainment defended its decision yesterday to shelve the comedy film "The Interview" in the wake of a massive hacking attack and threats against movie theatres, saying it had "no choice" but to cancel the 25 December release, www.foxnews.com reported.

The release of the statement came only hours after president Obama, speaking at an afternoon press conference, said he believed the studio "made a mistake" in not releasing the film, the plot of which centred on a fictional assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The film had triggered debate about censorship, with the FBI formally blaming North Korea for the cyber attack, which had included leaks of confidential data and unreleased movies, as also threats against Sony employees.

"Let us be clear: the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it," Sony said in its statement. "Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice."

Sony had, however, said a few days back that the company would be supportive of theatre owners' individual decisions on whether or not to show the film after hackers sent a message that threatened "11th of September"-style attacks against venues showing the movie.