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Obama authorizes sanctions to combat cyberattacks

US President Barack Obama has issued an executive order which will allow economic sanctions on US and foreign hackers. The move will enable authorities to punish individuals, as well as entities engaged in cyber attacks.

In a statement issued by the White House on Wednesday, Obama said cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges to the Unites States.

The US president also said he would "employ the authorities of my office and this administration, including diplomatic engagement, trade policy tools, and law enforcement mechanisms, to counter the threat posed by malicious cyber actors."

Freeze assets

Under the order, the US Treasury would be able to freeze or block assets belonging to those involved in cyber attacks on "critical" US computer networks, such as banking systems or electric power, or the theft of data such as credit card information.

"Cyber intrusions and attacks - many of them originating overseas - are targeting our businesses, stealing trade secrets, and costing American jobs. Iranian hackers have targeted American banks," Obama said.

Sony Pictures hacking

In his statement on Wednesday, the US president also referred to the alleged North Korea cyber attack on Sony Pictures last November which disabled thousands of computers.

In December, the American FBI blamed North Korea for hacking the film studio over the release of Sony Pictures' satire film, "The Interview," which depicts a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

A month later, Obama signed an executive order authorizing initial sanctions to punish Pyongyang over the alleged hacking, in addition to previous US sanctions which were directed at North Korea's nuclear program.

ksb/jil (Reuters, AFP)

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