President Obama speaks to reporters during a press conference at the White House, on December 18, 2014.

President Obama speaks to reporters during a press conference at the White House, on December 18, 2014. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Obama Says the North Korea Hack Was ‘Cybervandalism,’ Not Cyber War

President Obama calls the Sony hack a reminder to do a lot more to guard against them.’ By Allen McDuffee

For as outspoken as President Barack Obama has been about the gravity of North Korea's hack of Sony Pictures, in which he said the United States "will respond proportionally," he said Sunday that he doesn't consider the cyber intrusion "an act of war."

"No, I don't think it was an act of war, I think it was an act of cybervandalism that was very costly, very expensive," Obama said in an interview with CNN aired on Sunday, adding, "We take it very seriously."

On Friday, President Barack Obama blamed North Korea for the cyberattack that has caused significant embarrassment for Sony and led to the company canceling "The Interview," a comedy with the fictional plot of the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after terrorism threats were made if the film was released.

On Sunday, Obama appeared less concerned about security threats and more worried about the potential ramifications for free speech and the news industry.

"If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company's distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem," Obama told Candy Crowley, in her final interview for her CNN show, State of the Union.

Obama also softened his language toward Sony's decision to cancel the Christmas release from his words on Friday in which he said Sony had "made a mistake" and, "I wish they had spoken to me first.""And it's a problem not just for the entertainment industry, it's a problem for the news industry," he said. "CNN has done critical stories about North Korea. What happens if in fact there is a breach in CNN's cyberspace? Are we going to suddenly say, are we not going to report on North Korea?"

"So the key here is not to suggest that Sony was a bad actor," Obama said on Sunday. "It's making a broader point that all of us have to adapt to the possibility of cyberattacks, we have to do a lot more to guard against them."

In the wide-ranging interview, Obama also reiterated his plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

"I'm going to be doing everything I can to close it," Obama said. "It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held. It is contrary to our values."

On Saturday, the Pentagon announced that four Afghan detainees, who had been held at Guantanamo for more than 10 years, were released late on Friday.  

When asked about his perceived weakness when it comes to foreign policy because of how he's dealt with Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea and Cuba, Obama said Putin hasn't "rolled" him.  

"There was a spate of stories about how [Putin] is the chess master and outmaneuvering the West and outmaneuvering Mr. Obama and this and that and the other," said Obama. "And right now, he's presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis and a huge economic contraction.

"That doesn't sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America," said Obama. He added: "But I have been consistent in saying that where we can solve problems diplomatically, we should do so.