Obama: Groups That Launch Cyberattacks Against U.S. Companies To Face Economic Sanctions

President Obama signed an executive order today that declares cyberattacks from foreign soil to be a national emergency and gives the United States new powers for defending against them. The executive order, titled “Blocking The Property Of Certain Persons Engaging In Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities” gives the federal government the power to hit foreign hackers with freezes on their U.S. funds and property.

“Starting today, we’re giving notice to those who pose significant threats to our security or economy by damaging our critical infrastructure, disrupting or hijacking our computer networks, or stealing the trade secrets of American companies or the personal information of American citizens for profit,” President Obama said in a statement.

President Obama signed an executive order to give the U.S. new tools for fighting major foreign hackers.
Image credit: WhiteHouse.gov

The order is meant to give the United States a way to punish hackers it can’t physically reach, but who have money or property here. The resolution authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to pull the plug on hackers’ U.S. property and block their access to financial institutions. “Basically, sanctioning them can harm their ability to both commit these malicious acts and to profit from them,” a White House blog post reads.

Prime targets will be foreign officials who the U.S. government suspects of serious hacking activity, such as the officers in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who were blamed for attacking major American businesses in 2014. And, of course, the Sony Pictures attack was another in which this sort of executive order may have been helpful, though President Obama issued a separate order in January targeting North Korea for that attack.