On Wednesday, Obama signed an executive order aimed at curbing foreign cyber attacks on computer networks run by the U.S. government or domestic private businesses. Under the recent executive order, hackers and spies hired by foreign governments would face severe economic and travel sanctions.
White House officials said that the government wants to discourage other major cyber attacks on U.S. targets orchestrated by foreign agencies such as last fall’s attack on Sony Pictures’ computer systems.
President Obama recently stated that his administration planned to “give notice” to hackers that “pose significant threats” to the U.S. economy and security by damaging vital infrastructure, stealing trade secrets of U.S. businesses and personal data of U.S. citizens that are later used for their own profits.
However, the President declined to name any particular individuals or foreign governments that would face sanctions under the recent order.
According to the White House, the new measure allows Treasury Department employees to freeze bank accounts and cancel flight tickets to hackers that work for themselves, serve hostile governments, criminal groups, or overseas companies.
Until Wednesday, the Treasury Department had limited powers in sanctioning cyber attack masterminds, such as Iran and North Korea. But the new order allows the department to target the activity itself rather than just a handful of authors.
John Smith, the official who heads the Treasury Department’ sanctions program, recently said that the new executive order is not designed to “police the Internet” or hinder innovation or free speech. Mr. Smith also stated that the department will not sanction news agencies that publish leaked documents such as those obtained by Edward Snowden from the National Security Agency.
But hackers will face severe penalties. For instance, they could see their U.S. bank accounts frozen, could be deprived from other U.S. assets, as well as they could get banned from entering the U.S. All American companies and banks will receive an updated list with individuals accused of hacking and will be forbidden from doing any business with those people.
Yet, the order may not be enough to stop the wave of cyber attacks hitting the U.S. since many international hackers from Russia, China, North Korea, and other countries do not own estates or bank accounts on the U.S. territory.
Still, U.S. officials are confident that hackers would be affected since many international transactions run through the U.S. banking system, even without the bank account owner’s knowledge.
The Obama administration hopes that the new executive order would grant Treasury investigators the authority to pursue cyber criminals in a similar way they investigate drug dealers, foreign criminal organizations, and terrorist groups. The officials also hope that it will discourage companies from hiring hackers to steal intellectual property.
Also, the U.S. officials urge other countries to enact similar measures to sanction cyber criminals and curb an industry that had caused hundreds of millions worth of losses for the U.S. economy alone.
In the last few months, cyber attackers infiltrated several U.S. banks and stole millions of patient records by breaking into Anthem’s computer networks. Moreover, Russian hackers took a peek into the U.S. State Department’s servers, while Iranian hackers completely shut down Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s computer systems.
Image Source: Got Geoint