Proposed U.S. law aims to counter cybertheft with import bans

The bill would require the Director of National Intelligence to identify companies that benefit from stolen U.S. technologies

A bill proposed in the U.S. Senate aims to block imports of products containing U.S. technology stolen online, a move that appears primarily directed at China.

Introduced by four senators, the Deter Cyber Theft Act would require the U.S. president to block the import of products containing stolen U.S. technology identified by the Director of National Intelligence, including products made by state-owned enterprises of nations on a priority watch list of the DNI that are similar to items identified as stolen or targeted U.S. technology.

The bipartisan bill is backed by Senators Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia and Tom Coburn, a Oklahoma Republican.

Recent reports indicate that China is by far the largest source of theft attempts against U.S. companies, according to a statement on Levin's website.

The proposed legislation comes a day after the Department of Defense released a report that said that China's government and military appears to be directly involved in cyberattacks against the U.S. Information stolen during these attacks is useful to a range of Chinese entities, including its defense and technology industries, a report by the Pentagon said.

The Chinese government has repeatedly said that it is not involved in cyberattacks against the U.S. It claims that it is the victim of cyberattacks including from the U.S.

"It is time that we fought back to protect American businesses and American innovation," said Levin, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in the statement. "We need to call out those who are responsible for cyber theft and empower the president to hit the thieves where it hurts most -- in their wallets, by blocking imports of products or from companies that benefit from this theft."

The proposed legislation requires the DNI to prepare watch lists of foreign countries that engage in economic or industrial spying in cyberspace with regard to U.S. trade secrets or proprietary information, including a priority list of worst offenders. The DNI will also be required to identify U.S. technologies or proprietary information targeted by espionage, and which may have been stolen, and also identify companies, including state-owned companies, that benefit from the theft.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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