U.S. Lawmakers Call for Guaranteed Consequences for Foreign Hackers

A bill by Sen. Cory Gardner would establish a menu of sanctions the White House could use to punish hackers targeting the U.S.

by Tom Roeder, The Gazette / August 29, 2018
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner Flickr/Gage Skidmore

(TNS) — If America’s enemies launch a cyberattack, a Colorado senator’s bill would give them something new: guaranteed consequences.

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner penned a measure that would label hackers attacking the U.S. as “critical cyberthreat” actors, giving the White House a menu of sanctions that can target individuals, foreign agencies or nations.

“We know the threat of cyberattacks is increasing each and every day,” said Gardner, who is pushing the bill with the help of U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

Gardner said U.S. response to cyberattacks, including Russian actions during the 2016 election, has been haphazard.

“We don’t have an appropriate mechanism in place to counter those threats and actions,” he said.

Over the past decade, the U.S. has raced to counter growing cyberthreats from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and even terror groups. Cyberattacks, used successfully in Russian campaigns against its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine, are seen globally as a low-cost way to disable enemies by hampering communications, disrupting key defense networks and even causing physical damage to utilities and factories at the click of a mouse.

“This bill is the first step forward,” Gardner said.

He heads a Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel on international cybersecurity policy, positioning him to push the measure onto the Senate floor.

The bill would force the White House to acknowledge cyberattacks, placing attackers on a list that is published and regularly updated. It then would require a response, including cutting off enemy states that attack the U.S. from foreign aid, American trade and access to global financial markets.

The bill does not describe other forms of U.S. retribution, including counterattacks on the internet and by use of the Defense Department’s array of retaliatory options.

Gardner said the measure is designed to give presidents flexibility in how they respond. But that doesn’t mean it will be greeted with acclaim by the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump repeatedly has expressed doubt about intelligence agency findings that Russia conspired to use hackers to influence the 2016 election.

In July, Trump slammed those who have been critical of Russian election interference and an ongoing investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign.

“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump said on Twitter.

But Gardner predicted Trump will back his bill after the White House learns more about it.

“I think the Trump administration, once we get hearings underway, will be supportive of this measure,” the senator said.

©2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.