US lawmakers to introduce new bill to punish cyber theft

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A day before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the United States, three US lawmakers plan to propose a new law that would punish hackers backed by China, Russia or other foreign governments for cyber spying and theft.

The new bill that would go after specific hackers from "offending nations" with "real consequences and punishments" will be introduced on Thursday by House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio and Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Mr Rogers, whose office did not immediately release further details of the bill, leads cybersecurity efforts in Congress.

He has co-authored a cybersecurity bill meant to ease sharing of cyber threat data between companies and the government that passed the House earlier this year.

President Barack Obama will meet China's Xi at a California summit this week and plans to tell him that Washington considers Beijing responsible for any cyber attacks launched from Chinese soil and that China must abide by international "rules of the road" on cybersecurity.

China has consistently denied US accusations of cyber hacking and has insisted it is more a victim than a perpetrator.

The White House declined to specify what, if any, punitive measures the United States might take if Mr Xi refuses to cooperate and the cyber threats persist.

"Cyber hackers from nation-states like China and Russia have been aggressively targeting US markets, stealing valuable intellectual property, and then repurposing it and selling it as their own," Mr Rogers' office said in announcing the plans for the bill's introduction.

The new bill will be the second such legislation taken up by Congress. A group of powerful senior senators last month introduced the Deter Cyber Theft Act to combat computer espionage and the theft of commercial data from US companies.

The differences are for now unclear between the new Rogers bill to be introduced on Thursday and last month's Senate bill introduced by Democrats Carl Levin of Michigan and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The Senate bill requires the Director of National Intelligence to compile an annual report that includes a list of nations that engage in economic or industrial espionage in cyberspace against US firms or individuals.

The president would also be required to block imports of products containing stolen US technology, among others.

The new bill is expected to face a challenge in Congress this year. A divided Congress has not approved much legislation in recent years, given a string of partisan fiscal battles.

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