A new policy that came out of the White House Wednesday will impose sanctions and other punishments on foreign nations engaged in online espionage.
While that is a good get tough stance, the true fact is it is very difficult to track down just where cyber attacks are coming from.
This week, security firm Mandiant released a report detailing an advanced persistent threat analysis that said hackers employed by the Chinese government have waged a sophisticated cyberwar against entities in the United States and elsewhere, compromising over 100 computer networks over a few short years and attacking networks belonging to the public and private sector alike.
In an effort to strike while the iron is hot, President Barack Obama published a 141-page document outlining plans to implement harsh penalties on nation-states caught pilfering American computer systems for trade secrets and other intelligence.
The plan increases the threat of new trade restrictions on products and services made by foreign companies on the basis of information stolen in hacking operations or other similar online raids. White House officials also named a series of diplomatic measures meant to back up their promise to take such thefts seriously. The report recommends various government agencies review current legislation to determine whether there needs to be new laws to protect American corporate secrets.
It also outlines Washington’s plan, led by the State Department, Commerce Department and U.S. Trade Representative, to coordinate with allied governments on pressure strategies against countries it says are stealing its intellectual property.
“Trade-secret theft threatens American businesses, undermines national security, and places the security of the U.S. economy in jeopardy,” the report said. “These acts also diminish U.S. export prospects around the globe and put American jobs at risk.”
Though the report does not exactly rebuke China or threaten action against it in plain language, it does name several examples of Chinese thefts of American corporate secrets.
“This is happening thousands of times a day,” former-FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry said of cyber attacks. “There needs to be some definition of where the red line is and what the repercussions would be.”
The Chinese government has disavowed cybercrimes against America. In response to the Mandiant report, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said it was ripe with “groundless criticism” that was irresponsible and unprofessional.