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President Obama wants the federal government to do more to prevent cyberattacks. And this afternoon, the government itself became a target. Hackers claiming ties to the Islamic State militant group temporarily took over the Twitter feed of U.S. Central Command. They tweeted out threats against U.S. service members, as well as personal information and what appeared to be military maps. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports the Twitter takeover came shortly after the president delivered a speech calling for stronger data protection in schools and stores.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: A Pentagon spokesman downplayed the Twitter attack as more of an annoying prank than a genuine security threat. But it did underscore the president's point about protecting data security in a world where just about everyone is banking, buying and communicating more through digital networks.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This extraordinary interconnection creates enormous opportunities, but also creates enormous vulnerabilities for us as a nation and for our economy and for individual families.
HORSLEY: Obama outlined a series of proposals designed to safeguard personal data, steps he'll talk about in next week's State of the Union address. One is aimed specifically at the data collected in schools through increasingly popular educational software.
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OBAMA: Michelle and I are like parents everywhere. We want to make sure that our children are being smart and safe online. That's a responsibility of ours as parents, but we need partners.
HORSLEY: Obama wants Congress to pass a law modeled on one in California that prevents software companies from selling students' data or using it to craft targeted ads.
Jim Steyer is with an advocacy group that helped write the California law.
JIM STEYER: The bottom line is data in the classroom and in schools should only be used for educational purposes, not to sell to other people, not to reveal inappropriate data.
HORSLEY: Dozens of software companies have already signed a voluntary pledge not to misuse students' data. But Mark Schneiderman, who's with the Software and Information Industry Association worries a new federal law might be piling on.
MARK SCHNEIDERMAN: We just want to make sure that we're not simply adding additional layers that further complicate the situation.
HORSLEY: Obama's also calling for new laws governing commercial handling of data, after a series of high-profile breaches at retail chains like Target and Home Depot. Nick Ahrens of the Retail Industry Leaders Association says big stores back the president's call to notify their customers of any data breach within 30 days. But, Ahrens says, policymakers have to be careful.
NICK AHRENS: Getting the trust equation right, at the same time making sure that any new laws that are considered really allow that dynamism that we've come to see in our economy to continue.
HORSLEY: President Obama is trying to strike his own balance this week. He'll be talking about both the benefits of faster, cheaper broadband service and the growing need to guard against cyberattacks.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.
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