WASHINGTON - Iran is "good," China and Russia are "very good," but North Korea's cyberattack capabilities are actually not that great, according to an impromptu ranking by US President Barack Obama.
In an interview with online site "re/code" published Tuesday, Obama used North Korea's relative lack of electronic prowess to underscore how dangerous even less skilled cyber attackers can be.
"Just to give you a sense of how challenging this is - it's not as if North Korea is particularly good at this," Obama said.
"But look how much damage they were able to do. Non-state actors can do a lot damage, as well. So we've got to constantly upgrade our game."
Obama slapped sanctions on North Korea last month following the hacking of Hollywood studio Sony Pictures' computer network.
US officials blamed the attack on Pyongyang and described it as the most damaging commercial hack in US history.
North Korea has officially denied any involvement.
Obama indicated a host of other powers were playing at a higher level.
"China and Russia are very good. Iran is good," he said.
For them, Obama said, something akin to the nuclear deterrent was necessary to keep attacks from getting out of hand.
"We're constantly engaged in a dialogue with these countries in the same way that we engage in a dialogue around nuclear arms," he said.
"Indicating to them that it doesn't serve anybody's purpose for us to attack in ways that may end up eliciting responses, and everybody's worse off."