President Obama is handing U.S. law enforcement a new tool in the global fight against malicious hackers, The Daily Beast's Shane Harris reports. Under an executive order issued Wednesday, the Treasury Department can now sanction individuals and entities behind hacks that threaten U.S. national security, foreign policy, and economic stability. Administration officials say it's a more targeted way of punishing some of the worst offenders in cyberspace, including hackers stealing proprietary information from U.S. corporations. It's also a way of cracking down on hackers in countries with no extradition treaty with the U.S. who would almost certainly never see the inside of an American courtroom to answer for their crimes.
But to levy sanctions on individuals, the U.S. will need solid evidence of who is responsible for a cyber attack or theft, and a senior U.S. official told The Daily Beast that the government has gotten a lot better in pinpointing those bad actors. "Certainly, our ability to do attribution has improved," said Michael Daniel, the chief cyber security official at the White House. That technical prowess was recently on display when Obama and FBI Director James Comey publicly and unequivocally accused North Korea of being responsible for the hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. The government knew North Korea was responsible because U.S. spies are in their network and can monitor hackers in the hermit kingdom.