Cyber-Espionage Bills Hit the Congressional Floor

A bipartisan group of lawmakers recently introduced a bill to Congress designed to hurt hackers commissioned by foreign governments such as China and Russia. The mission of the bill is to preserve intellectual property in the United States by admonishing cyber-spying and theft.

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The revealing of the Cyber Economic Espionage Accountability Act comes just as President Obama enters into a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The bill’s sponsors hope to send a message to the visiting nation that the U.S. will not tolerate this behavior.

The Effect of Cyber Spying

According to Verizon’s records, cyber-espionage was responsible for one-fifth of all the data breaches recorded in 2012. The targets range from small-business entrepreneurs to billion-dollar corporations. Hackers are looking to steal intellectual property that would give other nations a competitive edge.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan, says that cyber-espionage is a top national security issue. The thefts have a direct impact on the American job market and undermine the nation’s economic structure, he says. They threaten not only the current environment, but the ability to innovate new technologies. In other words, Rogers reiterates, future jobs are also at risk.

What the Bill Means

The Cyber Economic Espionage Accountability Act places the onus for criminal acts on the heads of the hacker. The bill gives the Department of Justice the power to seize the assets of those committing espionage and to deport them.

Another bill sent to Washington offers a similar view of foreign cyber-theft. The Deter Cyber Theft Act requires the Director of National Intelligence to submit annual reports regarding economic and industrial espionage from other countries along with a list of targeted information. With it, the President must block the import of products containing stolen proprietary data.

It is no accident that the new bill comes on the cusp of the summit with China. Its roots lie in a case of alleged hacking by a Chinese government-sponsored agent during the 2008 presidential campaign. These spies sought to steal emails and other internal documents. Their capture led to an increased scrutiny of suspected cyber-spying coming from China. The introduction of the bill opens the door for the two countries to discuss this growing problem.

The one-two punch of these two bills promises both to track espionage efforts and to seize the assets of hackers in an attempt to thwart cyber-espionage attacks initiated throughout the world.