U.S. Threatens Sanctions Against Those Responsible for Latest Government Hack

The United States is suggesting it will impose economic sanctions against the parties involved in a massive breach of data affecting more than four million federal employees last week.

The Guardian reports that the White House made the suggestion on June 5th when Press Secretary Josh Earnest commented on the hack. Unofficial reports claim that the government suspects China is behind the hack, although Earnest and President Obama have refused to indict the country.

Earnest stated that the FBI is still investigating who was responsible for the cyber attack, which collected the personal data of four million federal employees from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Regardless of who’s to blame, Earnest made clear that the president will use his executive authority to impose economic sanctions against the culprits.

“In April, the president, using his executive authority, signed an executive order giving the Treasury Department additional authority to use economic sanctions to punish or hold accountable those who are either responsible for a cyber intrusion or are benefiting from one,” Earnest said.

Because of the hack, the government has decided to release its latest internal security software, “Einstein 3,” ahead of schedule.

Though the hack against OPM occurred in April, it was first made known to the public on June 4th. The hack came after another breach of security affected the Department of State, which lost some of its non-classified White House computer systems. Though some attribute the attack to Russia, the government has yet to officially blame anyone.

Earnest stressed that the U.S. is not blaming China, yet also stated that cyber crime operating in China has always been a concern of the president.

For its part, China is vehemently denying responsibility for the attack. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei rebuked the U.S., claiming that it should be “less suspicious” and should “stop making any unverified allegations, but show more trust and participate more in cooperation.”

“We know that hacker attacks are conducted anonymously, across nations, and that it is hard to track the source,” Lei said. “It’s irresponsible and unscientific to make conjectural, trumped-up allegations without deep investigation.”

The hack comes at a time when international cyber criminal organizations are wreaking havoc on government computer systems. Many government systems across the world are still outdated, using basic communication tools like email rather than more advanced counterparts. Email was not designed with security in mind and many email services only allow 10 MB of attachment space.

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