US declares cyber crime a 'national emergency'
The United States has launched the first-ever sanctions programme to financially punish individuals and groups outside the country that are engaged in malicious cyber attacks.
US President Barack Obama, in an executive order, declared such activities a "national emergency" and allowed the US Treasury to freeze the assets and bar other financial transactions of entities engaged in cyber attacks.
Under the programme, first reported by the 'Washington Post', cyber attackers or those who conduct commercial espionage in cyberspace can be listed on the official sanctions list of specially designated nationals, a deterrent long-sought by the cyber community.
The move, which the paper said has been in development for two years, comes after a string of high-profile cyber attacks ranging from corporate hacks targeting Target, Home Depot and other retailers, to an attack on Sony and other data breaches.
The executive order gives the administration the same sanctions tools it now deploys to address other threats - including crises in the Middle East and Russia's aggression in Ukraine - and makes them available for less visible cyber threats.
Cybersecurity has moved near the top of the US agenda.