U.S. government to propose bill targeting foreign hackers

New legislation to be introduced by the House Intelligence Committee aims to curb cybertheft and cyberespionage done by "cyber hackers from nation-states like China and Russia."

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee are in the middle of proposing a new cybertheft law that would target hackers based in other countries, according to Reuters.

The bill, which doesn't yet have a name, is to be introduced on Thursday by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc). These lawmakers have said that the intent of the law will be to go after hackers from "offending nations" and deliver "real consequences and punishments."

Of those countries said to be cyber spying on the U.S. and possibly stealing data from the government and various companies are China, Russia, Iran, and others.

"Cyber hackers from nation-states like China and Russia have been aggressively targeting U.S. markets, stealing valuable intellectual property, and then repurposing it and selling it as their own," Rogers' office said while announcing plans for the bill's introduction, according to Reuters.

China has bared the brunt of the most recent cyberattack accusations. After The New York Times admitted in January to being the victim of a lengthy hack that it believed was propagated by the Chinese government to spy on its journalists, The Wall Street Journal, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and dozens of other companies and news sources said their sites were hacked too, most likely by the same source.

A study by Mandiant published in February linked China's People's Liberation Army to the large number of cyberattacks. And in March, the Obama administration demanded that China end its "unprecedented" campaign of cyberespionage, warning that the hacking activity threatened to derail efforts to build stronger ties between the two countries.

In May, the Pentagon published a report claiming that the Chinese government and military have been engaged in widespread cyberespionage that has targeted U.S. government and business computer networks. However, the Chinese government has flatly denied it is involved with any of the recent hacking or cyberespionage.

The news of the upcoming cybertheft bill comes on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the U.S. According to Reuters, President Obama plans to discuss China's alleged cyberattacks on the U.S. with Xi.

A group of senators proposed a similar bill called the "Deter Cyber Theft Act" last month. The goal of this legislation is to protect commercial data from foreign hackers and governments. If passed, this law would require that an annual report be written to list the countries involved in cyberespionage and highlight the worst offenders.