An executive order has been signed today which authorizes a set of new sanctions to be imposed on cyber attackers involved in hacking into the network of US companies or government agencies. It enables the US Treasury Secretary to freeze assets, and also permits sanctions to be applied against companies that knowingly use stolen trade secrets.
The presidential advisor Lisa Monaco has mentioned in an official blog post “Malicious cyber activity – whether it be stealing sensitive information, including personal identifiers, or trade secrets – is often profit-motivated.” He further said, “Because those responsible want to enjoy the ill-gotten proceeds of their activities, sanctions can have a significant impact.”
According to Obama, US sompanies have always been targeted by the digital attackers to steal trade secrets, and he also warned that hackers in China and Russia have targeted US defense contractors and systems, while Iranian hackers have targeted American banks.
The president also admitted that it appears to be hard to pursue attackers either because of weak or poorly-enforced foreign laws, or because some governments are either unwilling or unable to crack down on those responsible.
The second order has been signed by the President relating to online threats this year. In February he enacted another order instructing federal agencies to maintain a clearing house of information identifying the most serious threats to US network infrastructure.
US believe that China is a major culprit in online attacks on US infrastructure and companies, although it denies the charges. One of the most remarkable breaches was last November’s invasion of Sony Pictures, which leaked private e-mails among Sony executives and inside details on upcoming films. The FBI has proclaimed that North Korea was behind the attack, however the country has denied any involvement.