US readies sanctions against China for cyber spying

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1 September 2015 | 0

The US government is working on a sanctions package against Chinese firms and individuals for cyber-espionage activities against US companies, the Washington Post reported. This move comes after months of cyber attacks on companies and government agencies that have been linked to China.

The sanctions will impose costs for economic cyber spying and not government-to-government intelligence activities. As a result, the incidents the package will cover do not include the Office of Personnel Management breach from earlier this year, because that attack was deemed to be part of traditional intelligence.

Instead, the sanctions are primarily in response to Chinese companies that have been accused over the past few months of breaking into American companies and stealing intellectual property, client lists, trade secrets, and other sensitive information in order to gain an economic advantage in the marketplace.

“It sends a signal to Beijing that the administration is going to start fighting back on economic espionage, and it sends a signal to the private sector that we’re on your team,” an administration official told the Washington Post. “It tells China, enough is enough.”

The sanctions follow the president’s Executive Order from April, which gave the US Department of Treasury the authority to freeze assets and bar other financial transactions of entities engaged in destructive cyber attacks. The order targeted individuals and groups outside the United States that use cyber attacks to threaten US foreign policy, national security, or economic stability. This doesn’t mean, however, that the government will abandon diplomatic channels, trade policy tools, and law enforcement actions to go after individuals and entities engaged in malicious activity.

Whether or not the sanctions will be issued is still unknown, but a final decision is expected soon, the Washington Post reported, and cited unnamed administration officials who hinted it could happen “even within the next two weeks”. The timing is sensitive as it could overlap with the first state visit by President Xi Jinping of China.

IDG News Service

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