President Obama presented the first-ever sanctions program that aims to penalize foreign hackers engaged in cyber espionage, as well as companies that knowingly benefit from it. Apparently, the program is aimed at Russian and Chinese state-owned corporations.
This move seems to be another attempt by Obama’s administration to introduce options short of direct retaliation to address the ever-increasing cyber threat. The new program will allow the US to sanction both individuals and companies. However, the administration didn’t reveal any specific penalties, only saying that sanctions would apply to anyone engaged in malicious cyber activity with the purpose to harm critical infrastructure and computer systems or steal trade secrets and any other sensitive data.
It was announced that the sanctions would also apply to legal entities that knowingly profit from stolen data – this refers to the fact that western analysts have long suspected that state-owned Russian and Chinese companies have been conducting economic cyber espionage, although Snowden revelations point at exactly the opposite state of affairs.
By the way, this move follows the recent Obama administration’s allegations that North Korea was responsible for cyber-attack on Sony Pictures and criminal indictments against the Chinese military hackers accused of cyber espionage against American corporations. While the United States really sanctioned a number of North Korean individuals in retaliation for the Sony Pictures breach, they weren’t targeted specifically for their role in that incident. As for the Chinese hackers, those stay
in China – out of reach of the US justice system.