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President puts cyber security on list of priorities

Recent data breaches hoped to get republicans, democrats to approve legislation

SAN ANTONIO – When President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders Tuesday, he talked about his priorities for the year. One issue that received a lot of attention: cyber security.

His plan comes the same week hackers reportedly working for Islamic State militants accessed the Twitter and YouTube accounts for U.S. Central Command. Chain stores like Target and Home Depot have also been targeted by cyber criminals in the last year.  

The president is proposing at least three initiatives:

  • Telling companies they have 30 days to disclose a leak of customer data
  • Encouraging companies to share threat information with the government while protecting them from potential lawsuits if they do
  • Keeping students' electronic data out of the hands of some commercial entities

Some states have already established standards for reporting data breaches.

"What the president's proposal would do is to establish a national standard that would streamline data-breach requirements and expectations and hopefully that would provide some guidance and some consistency for companies moving forward," said Brian Fung, a technology reporter with The Washington Post.

Republicans and Democrats have supported legislation that would strengthen privacy laws, but the president said more needs to be done.

"It just goes to show how much more work we need to do, both public and private sector, to strengthen our cyber security and make sure that families' bank accounts are safe, to make sure our public infrastructure is safe," Obama said.

With a deeply divided Congress, it could be tough for both sides to pass legislation - even if it's a topic on which they agree.

"The question here that faces Republicans is moving into the 2016 election cycle, their big task is to prove that they can govern, and this would be an early indication whether or not that's going to be the case here," Fung said.