President Obama announces new US cyber-sanctions

The legislation covers individuals or organisations carrying out malicious cyber activities

US President Barack Obama has issued an executive order that demands the government take action to sanction foreign hackers.

It means the US Treasury Secretary would be able to take action against anyone carrying out malicious cyber activity against the United States, with support from the Attorney General and Secretary of State.

President Obama said in a statement: "This Executive Order authorises the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, to impose sanctions on individuals or entities that engage in malicious cyber-enabled activities that create a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States."

The US government's proposed sanctions cover a wide remit, including having the purpose or effect of significantly harm or compromise critical infrastructure, "misappropriating funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain; knowingly receiving or using trade secrets that were stolen by cyber-enabled means for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain; disrupting the availability of a computer or network of computers (for example, through a denial of service attack);and attempting, assisting or providing material support for any of the above activities."

The US Treasury said the new authority will not affect any other laws referring to cyber attacks, but will allow the government to react in a more timely and efficient manner if a country with light cyber security laws attacks a US-based organisation.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said: "Today's Executive Order allows us to expose and financially isolate those who hide in the shadows of the Internet to conduct malicious cyber activities."

The announcement follows actions by the government to sanction North Korea after it launched a cyber attack against Sony Pictures last year, leaking confidential files.

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