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Senators Introduce Retooled Bill to Combat Computer Espionage Against U.S. Companies

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

A bipartisan group of four senior senators today announced a revised version of a bill they introduced in 2013 to take aggressive new steps against computer espionage and theft of valuable commercial data.

The Deter Cyber Theft Act of 2014 updates legislation introduced last year by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. It would combat what former National Security Agency head and U.S. Cyber Command commander Gen. Keith Alexander called "the greatest transfer of wealth in history" -- the theft of valuable intellectual property from U.S. companies. As this week's indictment of five Chinese army officials on cyber theft charges shows, U.S. companies are increasingly the targets of foreign countries and companies that illegally access valuable data and then use it to compete against American companies and workers.

"It is time to fight back back to protect American businesses and American innovation," said Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Battling the wave of computer espionage targeting the American economy requires law enforcement actions such as this week's indictment, and it requires action by Congress to hit those who profit from these crimes where they'll feel it: in the wallet."

"The techniques used by cyber criminals to steal information vital to our economic and national security interests are by no means simple or static, and the tools available to our government to combat and deter this activity should not be either," said McCain. "This bill will give us insight into those most culpable for cyber-based economic espionage aimed at U.S. innovation, and will disrupt those activities by authorizing the president to target with sanctions those exploiting our intellectual property for their financial gain."

"As we saw this week, cyber attacks and espionage present a grave threat to our economy and our national security," Rockefeller said. "We need serious action now in Congress to address this problem, and we need corporate America to do the same. Focusing public attention on the individuals and governments that are stealing our intellectual property is a step in the right direction. We must send a strong signal to our adversaries that they will face major consequences for breaking into our networks."

"Deterrence should be the number one way we try to prevent cyber attacks and nation-state sponsored economic espionage," Coburn said. "This bipartisan legislation is an important step forward as we develop a national strategy to deter our cyber adversaries and protect American citizens and businesses."

The revised bill would give U.S. officials a powerful new tool in the fight against computer espionage: the ability to impose sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows for action to confront threats to U.S. national security or the economy. The bill would authorize the Treasury Department under IEEPA to freeze assets of individuals or companies that benefit from theft of U.S. technology or other commercial information.

The bill retains a requirement that the director of national intelligence publish an annual report that identifies countries engaging in computer espionage targeting valuable information of U.S. companies; a priority watch list of the foreign countries that are the most egregious offenders; U.S. technologies and information targeted or stolen by foreign cyber espionage; goods and services produced using stolen information; and government actions to combat computer espionage.

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