U.S. President Barack Obama answers a question about the cyberattack on Sony Pictures after his end of the year press conference on Dec. 19, 2014.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Obama: Sony hack was not an ‘act of war’

As the U.S. weighs options for a response to North Korea’s hacking attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, President Obama said the cyber assault was not an “act of war,” but rather a “very costly” act of cyber-vandalism.

“We take it very seriously and we will respond proportionally,” Obama said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Obama warned of the consequences when a company begins to censor itself, mirroring his year-end White House press conference remarks that Sony made the wrong choice to cancel the release of “The Interview.” Obama during the Friday address said he wished Sony spoke to him first before pulling the movie. “I would have told them: ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks,’” he said.

The president told host Candy Crowley in the CNN interview that “If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt, through cyber, you know, a company’s distribution chain or its products and, as a consequence, we start censoring ourselves, that’s a problem.”

Related: Sony CEO strikes back: ‘We have not caved’

“The key here is not to suggest that Sony was a bad actor. 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,” Obama said.

The president’s comments come just days after the FBI concluded that North Korea is responsible for the cyber attack, which has targeted senior executives at the company, celebrities, and exposed sensitive records of studio employees. North Korea denied the claim and quickly proposed a joint investigation into the hack, threatening “serious consequences” if Washington refused to cooperate. 

United States officials have not detailed any specific moves, though the U.S. has requested help from China to address the hacking attack, a senior administration official told NBC News.