- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In the wake of cyberattacks against Sony Pictures last year, President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday allowing the U.S. to sanction foreigners who engage in cyber hacking and spying.

The president announced no specific penalties, but said the new sanctions regime will “protect our national security, personal privacy and civil liberties.”

“Cyber intrusions and attacks — many of them originating overseas — are targeting our businesses, stealing trade secrets, and costing American jobs,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “Iranian hackers have targeted American banks. The North Korean cyberattack on Sony Pictures destroyed data and disabled thousands of computers. In other recent breaches that have made headlines, more than 100 million Americans had their personal data compromised, including credit card and medical information.”

He said the sanctions will allow the U.S. to target those who try to harm critical infrastructure, to gain a financial advantage, or to disrupt computer networks.

“The same technologies that help keep our military strong are used by hackers in China and Russia to target our defense contractors and systems that support our troops,” the president said. “Networks that control much of our critical infrastructure — including our financial systems and power grids — are probed for vulnerabilities by foreign governments and criminals.”

He added, “It’s often hard to go after bad actors, in part because of weak or poorly enforced foreign laws, or because some governments are either unwilling or unable to crack down on those responsible. In response to these cyber threats, our government is using every tool at our disposal — including diplomacy, law enforcement, and cooperation with other nations and the private sector — to strengthen our defenses and detect, prevent, respond to, and recover from attacks.”

Congressional Republicans have been calling on Mr. Obama even before the Sony attacks last year, allegedly perpetrated by agents of North Korea, to strengthen U.S. defenses against foreign hackers.

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