Obama Declares Cyberattacks A ‘National Emergency,’ Vows Action

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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President Obama on Wednesday declared cyberattacks a “national emergency,” and announced new executive authority designed to protect critical U.S. Internet assets and retaliate against hackers.

“Starting today, we’re giving notice to those who pose significant threats to our security or economy by damaging our critical infrastructure, disrupting or hijacking our computer networks, or stealing the trade secrets of American companies or the personal information of American citizens for profit,” Obama wrote in a post on Medium.

Obama signed an executive order Wednesday declaring a national emergency in response to cyber threats posed by hackers and those who harbor them, which Obama insisted he intends to use.

“As of today, the United States has a new tool to protect our nation, our companies, and our citizens  — and in the days and years ahead, we will use it.”

The order authorizes the Treasury Department, in conjunction with the Attorney General and State Department, to impose sanctions against individuals, groups or supporters of threatening cyber actors participating in behavior that undermines U.S. national security, foreign policy, economic activity or financial stability.

“The malicious cyber-enabled activity must have the purpose or effect of significantly harming or compromising 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 White House said in a statement.

“From now on, we have the power to freeze their assets, make it harder for them to do business with U.S. companies, and limit their ability to profit from their misdeeds,” Obama wrote. “I’m also authorizing sanctions against companies that knowingly use stolen trade secrets to undermine our nation’s economic health.”

Obama’s statement comes months after the November hack of Sony Pictures, compromising millions in intellectual property and sales, which Obama repeated Wednesday was perpetrated by North Korea, despite reports to the contrary. The president also mentioned Iranian hackers’ attacks against Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan in 2012 and the February hack of medical insurance provider Anthem, which compromised the financial and medical data of more than 100 million Americans.

“Targeted sanctions, used judiciously, will give us a new and powerful way to go after the worst of the worst,” Obama wrote.

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