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Following a year of scary cyberattacks involving major companies like Home Depot and Sony, President Obama is set to highlight cybersecurity and data privacy during his State of the Union address on January 20.

The White House has spent the past two weeks previewing policy initiatives and legislative proposals in three areas:

  • increasing the sharing of cybersecurity information between the government and private companies
  • bolstering law officials' ability to investigate and prosecute cybercriminals
  • and establishing a federal mandate for hacked companies to disclose breaches to employees and customers who may be affected.

"The ideas behind these [legislative proposals] are good -- they're meant to protect consumers -- but it is really hard to write laws around this stuff without unintended effects," said Terrence Gareau, chief scientist at Nexusguard, a firm that helps companies defend against cyberattacks.

On the non-legislative side, the White House plans to hold a Cybersecurity Summit at Stanford University on February 13 with senior White House leaders and other government staffers, technical experts, private-sector CEOs, students and other groups. Also, Vice President Joe Biden announced last Thursday that the Department of Energy will provide $25 million in grants over five years to support a cybersecurity education group made up of 13 historically black colleges and two national labs.



-- Julianne Pepitone