White House mulling sanctions over Chinese cyber attacks directed at United States

The United States vs China cyber war is moving into a new territory with reports of United States mulling economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the Obama Administration is preparing “unprecedented” economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals who benefit from the cyber theft of valuable U.S. trade secrets.

The newspaper, citing several unidentified Obama administration officials, said that they will arrive at a final decision on whether to issue the sanctions as early as next two weeks.

United States has long been bearing the brunt of cyber attacks against its assets allegedly by Chinese hackers sponsored by the government. The data breaches have been an irritant in relations between the world’s two largest economies as President Xi Jinping prepares to make his first visit to the United States next month.

Obama administration officials have said China is the top suspect in the massive hacking of U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), that compromised the personnel records of at least 21 million current and former government workers. China has long denied involvement in the hack attack.

U.S. government officials and cyber analysts say Chinese hackers helped by the government use high-tech tactics to build massive databases which in turn is used for traditional espionage such as recruiting spies and gaining access to top secret portals.

A senior administration official said in reply to a Reuters query that President Barack Obama noted when he signed an executive order earlier this year enabling the use of economic sanctions against cyber hackers that the administration “is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront such actors.”

US hopes to send  “signal to Beijing that the administration is going to start fighting back on economic espionage, and it sends a signal to the private sector that we’re on your team. It tells China, enough is enough,” says the report.

The state department has so far neither accepted or denied whether it was in the process of formulating such economic sanctions against Chinese entities.

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