- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2016

Legislation proposed Thursday in the House calls on President Obama to impose sanctions against Iranians involved with waging cyberattacks against American targets.

Rep. John Ratcliffe, Texas Republican, said in a statement that his Iran Cyber Sanctions Act of 2016 would require the Obama administration to sanction individuals linked to the Iranian government in accordance with an April 2015 executive order that authorized the Treasury to take action against suspected state-sponsored hackers.

Proposed in the wake of a companion bill being offered in the Senate by Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican, the bicameral push comes two months after the Department of Justice announced charges against seven hackers accused of targeting the computers of American banks and a New York dam on behalf of Tehran.

Although U.S. intelligence officials have downplayed the abilities of Iranian hackers in the past, Mr. Ratcliffe this week said the administration must ensure it takes appropriate responses against individuals who are targeting American networks.

“The danger posed by Iran’s increasingly sophisticated cyber capabilities has grown significantly over the past few years, and we must take these threats seriously,” he said in a statement.

“However, just talking about the need to fight back against malicious cyber actors isn’t enough — the administration must follow through with forceful action that shows we mean business when it comes to defending our critical infrastructure and protecting Americans’ personal information.”

When Mr. Rounds proposed a companion bill in the Senate last month, he said that the imposition of sanctions could help the government “stop additional cyber-attacks before they happen and identify where future threats may come from.”

Mr. Ratcliffe, who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee on cybersecurity, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told him last week that he feared Iran may be using new funds made available following last year’s nuclear agreement to ramp-up its cyber capabilities.

“This reinforced the necessity of using sanctions as a tool in deterring such destructive behavior that so greatly threatens our national security,” he said in Thursday’s statement.

In March 2015, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that Iran has “lesser technical capabilities but possibly more disruptive intent” than more sophisticated hacking programs operated out of Iran and Russia. Two months later, however, a report released by the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council concluded Iran is “rapidly improving its cyber warfare capabilities.”

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