The White House is considering applying sanctions against firms and individuals in China it believes have benefited from Chinese hacking of US trade secrets, Reuters reported, citing the Washington Post.
The newspaper, citing several unidentified US administration officials, said a final determination on whether to issue the sanctions was expected soon, possibly as early as within the next two weeks.
Suspicions that Chinese hackers were behind a series of data breaches in the United States have been an irritant in relations between the world’s two largest economies as Xi Jinping prepares to make his first official visit as Chinese president to the US next month.
US officials have said China is the top suspect in the massive hacking of a US government agency that compromised the personnel records of at least 4.2 million current and former government workers.
China has denied involvement.
US government officials and cyberanalysts say Chinese hackers are using high-tech tactics to build massive databases that could be used for traditional espionage, such as recruiting spies or gaining access to secure data on other networks.
A senior administration official said in reply to a Reuters query that President Barack Obama noted when he signed an executive order earlier this year enabling the use of economic sanctions against cyberhackers that the government “is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront such actors”.
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