House Panel Approves Foreign Cyber Deterrence Bill

The House Foreign Affairs Committee today approved by voice vote the Cyber Deterrence and Response Act, which would “address state-sponsored cyber activities against the United States” by directing the President to designate “critical cyber threat actors.”

Those actors, the bill says, would be any foreign government agency or persons determined to be responsible for, or complicit in, any state-sponsored cyber activities that pose significant threat to U.S. national security, foreign policy, economic health, or financial stability, including activities aimed at any critical U.S. infrastructure sectors.

The bill would direct the President to publish the names of critical cyber threat actors in the Federal Register, with exceptions for a variety of situations including national security and law enforcement interests.

The measure would also direct the President to impose one or more sanctions against critical cyber threat actors, including limitations of security and non-humanitarian assistance, opposition to international loan and financial agreements, prohibition of financial transfers, prohibition on U.S. travel, restriction of ability to invest or conduct business in the U.S., and restrictions on U.S. companies from selling goods or technology to those parties.

The text of the bill–sponsored by Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.–does not name any critical cyber threat actors on its own, but does reference February 2018 statements by the Director of National Intelligence that Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea will pose the greatest near-term cyber threats to the U.S.

“Malicious cyber activity by foreign governments, including Russia, China, and North Korea cannot be tolerated,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the committee. He said Yoho’s bill “builds on this committee’s previous work by establishing a framework for deterring and responding to malicious state-sponsored cyber activity.”

The bill has 11 cosponsors, including four Democrats. Following today’s vote, Chairman Royce said the bill will be referred to the full House for consideration.

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