Congress looks to punish state-sponsored hacker spies

A new bipartisan bill will aim to punish foreign day backed by China, Russia and other nation-states by freezing their assets and deporting them out of the US.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and leads cybersecurity efforts in Congress has proposed the Cyber Economic Espionage Accountability Act, along with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

The measure, introduced just one day before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the United States, will look to root out individual hackers instead of companies, and will make their names public.

“This is a vital step to let China know that there are real consequences to stealing American intellectual property and robbing US ingenuity and innovation in order to gain competitive advantage,” Rogers said. "It’s happening at an alarming rate. It is one of my top national security concerns. This rampant theft is crushing American jobs. We need to identify these economic cyber criminals and create valid consequences to prevent them from undermining our economy and compromising U.S. national security.”

State-affiliated cyber-espionage campaigns were responsible for one-fifth of all data breaches recorded by Verizon last year, with targets ranging from the very large (think Saudi Aramco) to the very small. The act calls for the Department of Justice to bring more economic espionage criminal cases against offending foreign actors.

“This bill will give the President and Congress the power and oversight to deal with foreign cyber espionage in a meaningful way,” said Ryan. “Stealing intellectual property not only threatens the manufacturing jobs we have – it threatens the jobs we are trying to create. We need to ensure that countries like China and Russia no longer gain a competitive advantage through cyber-crimes.”

Last month, the Senate introduced the Deter Cyber Theft Act, a similar initiative. If passed, it would require the Director of National Intelligence to compile an annual report on foreign economic and industrial espionage, including a priority watch list of the worst offenders; a list of companies and countries engaging in theft; a list of US technologies or proprietary information targeted by such espionage and, to the extent possible, a list of such information that has been stolen and what it’s been used for; and actions taken by the DNI and other federal agencies to combat industrial or economic espionage in cyberspace.

The legislation would also require the president to block import of products containing stolen US technology.

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