Feinstein: In Past 6 Years, 'No Real Policy' to Handle Sony-Style Attacks

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the hacking attack against Sony is part of a longer-running plot -- and the administration has had "no real policy" to face such attacks.

"This is part of a much bigger picture. It really began in 2008 with robberies by cyber of both the Royal Bank of Scotland and Citibank, to the tune of about $8 million and $10 million, respectively. It has gone on and graduated to the point where most companies have been attacked one way or another. In the last two years, we have JPMorgan Chase, we have Home Depot, we have eBay and we have Target," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told CNN today.

"What's different to me about this attack is the monumental size of it, and secondly, there is extortion involved with it. In other words, the North Koreans are saying, unless you do this, we will do that. And this is where it becomes extraordinarily dangerous."

She added that "in the six years that have gone by, we have no real policy to handle this."

"Now, right now, you can look at North Korea, taken off the terrorist list, you can see this attack is in a sense a terrorist attack. You could put them back on. You can levy financial sanctions against them," Feinstein continued.

The State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism only includes four countries by this point -- Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria -- and the Obama administration is considering taking Cuba off the list. President George W. Bush took North Korea off the list in 2008.

"But the big problem is developing an international agreement with teeth to stop this kind of behavior because we're going toward bloodshed, I believe, if we don't solve it. We have tried to pass a cyber information-sharing bill," the senator said. "...We're getting into the arena of major attacks. Right now, it has to do a great deal with private industry. But the cost for private industry is now in the trillions of dollars. And it has to be stopped."

President Obama said he wished Sony had consulted him before yanking the film from theaters, but Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN he did consult with the White House after the threats.

"This is a complicated matter. And there is the question of liability. If something were to happen, who is liable for the loss of life?" Feinstein said.

"Now, this attack took place almost a month ago. So, we're 3 1/2 weeks into it and still going back and forth as to what might be done or who should have done what. And this can't continue to happen, in my view. This is a problem that's going to be with us for a very long time. And so, we have to get certain structures in place and the ability to handle it."

Whatever the administration decides to do, the senator stressed, "I would hope that we can convince the North Koreans that this carries a very heavy price."

"Certainly, we have attacks from China. We have attacks from Russia. We have attacks from Iran and we have attacks from within our own country. So, it has become a very sad way of life. And at some point, we face a disastrous attack. And this is what we must prevent."