President Adds Economic Sanctions to Cyber-Defense Toolbox

April 2, 2015

President Adds Economic Sanctions to Cyber-Defense Toolbox As part of a growing response to cyberattacks originating from outside the U.S., President Barack Obama signed an executive order yesterday authorizing the Treasury Department to employ economic sanctions against people and groups engaging in “significant malicious cyber activity” that results in a threat to U.S. national security.

“Starting today,” the President said in a statement, “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.”

Under the new executive order, if the Secretary of the Treasury, Attorney General and Secretary of State can determine the identity of a person or group from outside the U.S. that has engaged in “cyber-enabled activities” that threaten national security, the Treasury Department can seize any assets of that person or group within the U.S.

According to the White House, some of the activity that could result in economic sanctions include:

  • Harming or significantly compromising the provision of services by entities in a critical infrastructure sector
  • Significantly disrupting the availability of a computer or network of computers, including through a distributed denial-of-service attack
  • 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
  • Attempting, assisting, or providing material support for any of the harms listed above