President Obama Monday issued an Executive Order which authorizes the Departments of Treasury to impose sanctions on entities that engage in cyber attacks that result in a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy or economic health or financial stability of the United States.
Obama asserted in the order that he’d determined “that the increasing prevalence and severity of malicious cyber-enabled activities originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States” that rises to the level of “a national emergency."
Pursuant to the order, “All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn or otherwise dealt in:”
- Harming, or otherwise significantly compromising the provision of services by, a computer or network of computers that support one or more entities in a critical infrastructure sector;
- Significantly compromising the provision of services by one or more entities in a critical infrastructure sector;
- Causing a significant disruption to the availability of a computer or network of computers; or
- Causing a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain.
The order gives the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, the power to designate individuals “responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, the receipt or use for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain, or by a commercial entity, outside the United States of trade secrets misappropriated through cyber-enabled means, knowing they have been misappropriated, where the misappropriation of such trade secrets is reasonably likely to result in, or has materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy or economic health or financial stability of the United States.”
The order further applies to anyone who has “materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, any activity described in [the order] or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or to have attempted to engage in any of the activities described in" the order.
The order also says “the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria … of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States” will be prohibited entry into the United States.
"Almost every day, we hear about criminals and nation states launching cyber attacks that undermine our national and economic security, or could even physically harm Americans. Many of them are very good at it, and they continue to grow more sophisticated,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in response to Obama’s executive order.
“Congress, the administration, law enforcement, industry partners and other stakeholders must work together to stay a step ahead of the threat and do all we can to ensure our economic stability and the security and safety of our citizens. I believe this latest action on sanctions is a step in the right direction, and I commend President Obama for his steadfast attention and actions on this pressing issue,” Carper said.
“I applaud President Obama for finally stepping up to bat for US companies who are relentlessly victimized by the advanced persistent threat that China represents," said James W. Gabberty, a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City and an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute who has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels.
"Hopefully," he said, "Obama’s words will be backed up by action when needed, and not be another ‘red line in the sand’ – the rhetoric he used when confronting Syria and their illicit use of chemical weapons. What’s at stake in the cyber attacks confronting the US is our entire economy and way of life."
“While China claims innocence, the near perfect Chinese copy of America’s F-35 Strike Fighter combat aircraft (known as the J31), which also uses F22 Raptor technology stolen from US military defense contractors, is a shining example illustrating just how deeply China has successfully penetrated US civilian and military networks," Gabberty stated.