In order to stop the ‘worst of the worst’ from attacking America and its businesses online, US president Barack Obama recently signed the first-ever executive order authorizing the US government to impose sanctions on people, organizations and governments that indulge in malicious cyber-enabled activities against the country.
According to the Treasury, “malicious cyber-enabled activities” include “deliberate activities accomplished through unauthorized access to a computer system, including by remote access; circumventing one or more protection measures, including by bypassing a firewall or compromising the security of hardware or software in the supply chain”.
The ‘national emergency’ entails freezing of assets of people believed to pose significant threats to the US security or economy by damaging 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; and attempting, assisting or providing material support for any of the above activities.
“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. This Executive Order authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, to impose sanctions on individuals or entities that engage in malicious cyber-enabled activities that create a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States”, Obama said in a statement.
The executive order is a “response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment and threats against movie theaters and moviegoers”.
Though Obama said the powers would not be used to “target the legitimate cyber security research community or professionals who help companies improve their cyber security. And unlike some other countries, we will never try to silence free expression online or curb internet freedom”, critics claim that the new cyber law could be used against legitimate hackers attempting to secure the Internet.
“This executive order is another salvo on President Obama’s war on hackers. The President already has the power to deal directly with the threat of Chinese hackers, and should do so. However broad or vague, power grabs like this are unneeded, and threaten people that have nothing to do with the Chinese hacker threat. It’s a suspension of civil liberties, plain and simple”, said Robert Graham, who has previously criticised the US government’s attempts to counter online crime.
“This measure would have been something to pass in the nineties, when technologies for irreversible currency transactions didn’t exist. As it stands, this is just going to hasten the advance of Bitcoin’s adoption by criminal enterprises. Courts cannot seize Bitcoin without seizing the keys, which are held in countries hostile to United States enforcement arms. Obama’s administration continually attempts to give the impression they’re fighting foreign cyber-crime, but every single indictment seems to be aimed at United States activists. I was falsely imprisoned by the Obama administration and tortured for legitimate and lawful public criticisms of his corporate allies. Before passing more regulations, his administration should do their duty of making amends to me for the terroristic violence it performed upon me”, said Andrew Auernheimer, a 29-year-old computer hacker who was sentenced to prison for disclosing a security vulnerability that affected AT&T and Apple.
If Obama puts asset sanctions on foreign hackers, should the rest of the world freeze & seize US government assets due to NSA attacks on us?
— TheCthulhu (@CthulhuSec) April 2, 2015
If you get scammed by a hacker, the government can now take all of your money thanks to an executive order: https://t.co/rBgHeOdaCm
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— Rob Silverii (@robsilverii) April 4, 2015
Capitalism is built on personal property rights. That’s being steadily eroded in the USA. Very worrying. https://t.co/ojX3yH8gXg
— Lance Wiggs (@lancewiggs) April 4, 2015
— الفوضى القمر (@BintFalling) April 1, 2015
Not an April fools joke at all, President Obama declares a national emergency to deal with hackers: https://t.co/SBa6OG8BWK
— Rob Graham (@ErrataRob) April 1, 2015