PM Urges Sanctions in Response to Cyber-Attacks

Theresa May has urged the EU to adopt a new sanctions regime to punish nation states that engage in persistent cyber-attacks.

The move comes as the bloc signed up to new chemical weapons sanctions last week.

“I believe that we have an opportunity to show our collective political leadership. We have demonstrated significant steps forward against other challenging threats. And should today make clear that malicious cyber-activities are no different; we will impose costs on all those who seek to attack us, regardless of the means they use to do so,” she’s reported to have said.

“Malign cyber-activity causes harm to our economies, and undermines our democracies. As well as protecting ourselves against attack, we must impose proportionate consequences on those who would do us harm. We should accelerate work on EU restrictive measures to respond to and deter cyber-attacks, including a robust sanctions regime.”

The call can be seen as a response to a recent surge in offensive Russian efforts to probe UK critical infrastructure and interfere in referendums and elections throughout Europe.

The EU is reportedly looking to finalize several cybersecurity-related pieces of legislation before the European parliament heads into elections in May 2019.

Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, said May was following German chancellor Angela Merkel’s lead.

“The issue appears to be concern over whether or not Italy’s leadership will go along with sanctions,” he added.

“Of course, European level action is for the best — but the UK has plenty of leverage that it can exert on its own given the amount of Russian assets that are sheltered in the UK/London. May appears to be willing to lead the way, if others signal they’ll follow. It’s harder to imagine her leading the UK on its own though.”

Malcolm Taylor, director of cyber advisory at ITC Secure, claimed the new call is a clear signal of the UK’s willingness to put pressure on states weaponizing cyber, and to continue a close relationship with the EU on matters of security.

“Both of these responses are an attempt to demonstrate that, Brexit or no, the EU, the UK, and by extension traditional allies such as the US, are and will remain united,” he said.

“There may be domestic political reasons why Theresa May will want this to be heard now, but the more important audience is Russia. Put another way, Russia may believe it succeeded in influencing the referendum and causing division and weakness in the West; May is telling them it has failed.”

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