The United States would take aggressive new steps against computer espionage and theft of valuable commercial data under bipartisan legislation [PDF] introduced today by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; and Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
The Deter Cyber Theft Act, S. 884, would combat what National Security Agency head and U.S. Cyber Command commander Gen. Keith Alexander recently called "the greatest transfer of wealth in history" -- the theft of valuable intellectual property from U.S. companies, which invest billions every year in research and development, only to be targeted by foreign countries and companies that illegally access valuable data and then use it to compete against American companies and workers.
"It is time that we fought back to protect American businesses and American innovation," said Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We need to call out those who are responsible for cyber theft and empower the president to hit the thieves where it hurts most -- in their wallets, by blocking imports of products or from companies that benefit from this theft."
"Some foreign governments, businesses and state-owned enterprises are today using cyber espionage to steal American intellectual property and rob U.S. ingenuity and innovation in order to gain competitive advantage," said McCain. "This kills American jobs, undermines the competitiveness of our businesses and compromises U.S. economic and national security interests, and it must stop now. This bill provides the President with the authority to target those who are attempting to unfairly and illegally benefit from cyber crime at the expense of America's interests."
"Our economic prosperity and national security depend on bolstering our cybersecurity, and this bill is a crucial component of that effort," said Rockefeller. "We must cut the demand for stolen trade secrets by holding countries who engage in cyber theft accountable for their illegal activities and by preventing products that use stolen information from entering the U.S. market. Alongside other cybersecurity priorities -- including stronger cybersecurity standards, cyber workforce training, R&D, and public-private information sharing -- this bill to elevate cyber theft as a national security priority is a major step forward for American workers, American businesses, and American ingenuity."
The Deter Cyber Theft Act would require the Director of National Intelligence to compile an annual report on foreign economic and industrial espionage that includes:
-A list of foreign countries that engage in economic or industrial espionage in cyberspace against U.S. firms or individuals, including a priority watch list of the worst offenders;
-A list of U.S. technologies or proprietary information targeted by such espionage, and, to the extent possible, a list of such information that has been stolen;
-A list of items produced using such stolen information;
-A list of foreign companies, including state-owned firms, that benefit from such theft;
-Details of the espionage activities of foreign countries; and
-Actions taken by the DNI and other federal agencies to combat industrial or economic espionage in cyberspace.
The legislation would also require the president to block import of products containing stolen U.S. technology; products made by state-owned enterprises of nations on the DNI's priority watch list that are similar to items identified in the DNI's report as stolen or targeted U.S. technology; or made by a company the DNI identifies as having benefited from theft of U.S. technology or proprietary information.
Recent reports indicate that China is by far the largest source of theft attempts against U.S. companies.