U.S. lawmakers introducing legislation to “punish” foreign cyber thieves

Just ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s California meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, a group of American lawmakers will introduce legislation aimed at imposing sanctions on foreign hackers conducting industrial espionage against the United States tomorrow. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-TK), chair of the House intelligence committee, along with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-TK) ...

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Just ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's California meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, a group of American lawmakers will introduce legislation aimed at imposing sanctions on foreign hackers conducting industrial espionage against the United States tomorrow.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-TK), chair of the House intelligence committee, along with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-TK) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-TK), will introduce legislation "that provides real consequences and punishments for nation-state cyber hackers who relentlessly prey on American cyber networks and steal millions of dollars of intellectual property each year," according to a House intel committee announcement. "Cyber hackers from nation-states like China and Russia have been aggressively targeting U.S. markets, stealing valuable intellectual property, and then repurposing it and selling it as their own."

Notice how the language of the announcment refers to state-employed or sponsored cyber theives who steal business secrets on behalf of foreign governments rather than limiting their activities to collecting diplomatic and military information -- something U.S. spies say is a bridge too far

Just ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s California meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, a group of American lawmakers will introduce legislation aimed at imposing sanctions on foreign hackers conducting industrial espionage against the United States tomorrow.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-TK), chair of the House intelligence committee, along with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-TK) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-TK), will introduce legislation "that provides real consequences and punishments for nation-state cyber hackers who relentlessly prey on American cyber networks and steal millions of dollars of intellectual property each year," according to a House intel committee announcement. "Cyber hackers from nation-states like China and Russia have been aggressively targeting U.S. markets, stealing valuable intellectual property, and then repurposing it and selling it as their own."

Notice how the language of the announcment refers to state-employed or sponsored cyber theives who steal business secrets on behalf of foreign governments rather than limiting their activities to collecting diplomatic and military information — something U.S. spies say is a bridge too far

While the announcement gives no specifics as to how the legislation will punish hackers, Rogers has shared some thoughts on how he wants to hit back at state-backed economic espionage from place like China with Killer Apps several times over the last year.

Here’s what he told Killer Apps on February 13 — a week before Mandiant published its famous report detailing the exploits of a Chinese military backed hacking crew — when asked what the United States should do to combat rampant cyberespionage coming out of China:

"This is a problem of epic proportions here, and they need to be called on the carpet. There have been absolutely no consequences for what they have been able to steal and repurpose to date." Rogers suggested that the U.S. implement trade sanctions and identify "individuals who participate in this, go after their visas, go after family travel, all of the levers we have at the Department of State. The problem is that bad."

Rogers isn’t the only public figure calling for the United States to hit back at countries that use their intelligence services to conduct economic espionage.

Just last month, former Obama administration officials Dennis Blair, who served as the administration’s first director of national intelligence, and Jon Huntsman, who served as U.S. ambassador to China from 2009 through 2011, released a report urging the U.S. government to deny foreign businesses that benefit from stolen intellectual property (IP) access to the U.S. financial system and to increase Justice Department investigations and protections of "trade secret theft." They also suggested that the protection of American intellectual property ought to be a factor when the U.S. Treasury’s Committee on Foreign Investment considers whether or not to allow a foreign business to invest in U.S. firms.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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