back to article Barry Obama declares national emergency over foreign hackers

US President Barack Obama has signed a new executive order authorizing economic sanctions against overseas individuals who are believed to have participated in online attacks or espionage. The order declares the prevalence of foreign-launched internet attacks a "national emergency" and cites the International Emergency …

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  1. Sanctimonious Prick
    Angel

    And Then...

    The EU decide to enact similar powers... oh, oops!

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Crock or...?

    I'm stretching here, but there's something that just doesn't feel right. Maybe it's the explanations that should be in the order but aren't and were "clarified"...<spun?> by Monaco? If the limits are not in the order than there are no limits no matter what an advisor says.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Crock or...?

      Why is it that whenever legislation involves IT and mentions the term 'cyber' it invariably seems to be badly written and poorly thought through?

      1. Crazy Operations Guy

        "badly written and poorly thought through"

        That statement isn't exclusive to cyber laws...

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: "badly written and poorly thought through"

          That statement isn't exclusive to cyber laws...

          Or to laws in general. The subject of this article is not legislation at all, but an executive order.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Another money grab from the US Gov. No due process, no court order. Suspected of hacking, your bank accounts are ours and you have to spend more money to get a portion of it back.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    I might be cynical but

    Presidents in the final part of their second term are at their most dangerous, they don't have a future electorate to answer to, so they can impose sanctions, invade countries or whatever else screws up someone, somewhere in the world to to the benefit of America and the future board sitting ( or other signs of gratitude) possibilities for the soon to be ex president.

    Expect this to take shape in a way that is good for business for someone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I might be cynical but

      How long before Hollywood get hold of this?

      If could be useful against DotCom if a court was to actually see sense over their current sequestration of his assets without a chance to defend himself.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I might be cynical but

      Presidents in the final part of their second term are at their most dangerous

      Oh yes. They can even pardon people that would otherwise rightfully end up in jail, as Obama's predecessor has demonstrated.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: I might be cynical but

        They can even pardon people that would otherwise rightfully end up in jail, as Obama's predecessor has demonstrated.

        "Predecessors" would be fairer, since every US president except Harrison and Garfield pardoned (or commuted or rescinded) convicts, and those two only didn't because they didn't get a chance, given the briefness of their terms.

        Dubbya pardoned 200, which is pretty small in historical terms, though the rate has generally been falling since FDR, who pardoned a whopping 3687 people. (His record is bested only by Andrew Johnson's mass pardons after the Civil War.) Clinton and Reagan were both in the 400s. Bush I only pardoned 77, but his heart wasn't really in the job, was it?

  4. Nolveys
    Mushroom

    Law-abiding companies...

    ...have absolutely nothing to worry about.

    Whenever someone in the government says not to worry...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Suspect power

    Beware of any laws being proposed that grant authority new powers over people who are SUSPECTS when there is no evidence to PROVE they are guilty of an offence. Anyone can be labelled a suspect so these powers can and likely will be misused, even if that is not the intention of those proposing them.

    PS. I wish this story were a joke.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Suspect power

      As crappy as this sounds, it's already standard police practice when investigating certain crimes. Police are already allowed to freeze your assets if you're a "person of interest" in a criminal investigation, even if you're not the actual criminal they're investigating.

      1. Beachrider

        Re: Suspect power

        Is this the UK you are talking about? If it is the USA, care to cite a source?

        1. Beachrider

          Re: Suspect power

          No source, just a thumb, I guess...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Suspect power

            "No source, just a thumb, I guess..."

            ...Not everyone checks back here every day.

            "Is this the UK you are talking about? If it is the USA, care to cite a source?"

            You could just google for examples, but here I did it for you.

            Example of a guy who got his assets frozen but was never charged:

            http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/12/03/police-seize-mans-property-freeze-bank-accounts-but-its-the-thing-they-still-havent-done-thats-staggering/

            Descriptions of how police can actually sieze assets without bringing charges:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/10/us/police-use-department-wish-list-when-deciding-which-assets-to-seize.html?_r=0

            An (admittedly much weaker) SCotUS discussion on at what point in an investigation a suspect's assets should be frozen:

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/justices-weigh-whether-government-can-freeze-assets-without-hearing-on-indictment/2013/10/16/a77da862-369b-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story.html

            But, sure you can find tons of examples in the UK and down under too.

            An explanation from a British lawyer's webpage:

            http://johnsonastills.com/can-the-police-freeze-your-assets

            Note: El Reg should really let everyone use the "new" posting tools, like hyperlinks.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Suspect power

        Police are already allowed to freeze your assets

        Sounds desperate, are they *that* short of sperm donors?

  6. Ole Juul

    flexibility

    "economic sanctions against overseas individuals who are believed to have participated in online attacks"

    So, all it takes is a "belief"? This sounds like a very flexible multipurpose tool.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: flexibility

      So, all it takes is a "belief"? This sounds like a very flexible multipurpose tool.

      It works for ISIS ..

      1. Beachrider

        Re: flexibility

        There are court-ordered injunctions that do something like this in the USA, but there needs to be a court hearing where they document a concerted effort to see that both parties are represented. Are you talking about a FISA hearing? Those ARE different.

        1. Beachrider

          Re: flexibility

          Cannot really have a discussion without facts, even if you want to.

  7. Khaptain Silver badge
    WTF?

    The opposite situation

    And does the rest of the world have the right to sanction the USA whose "agencies" are only to happy to infiltrate, pirate, hack, spy, snoop, steal on the rest of the world....

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: The opposite situation

      "And does the rest of the world have the right to sanction the USA whose "agencies" are only to happy to infiltrate, pirate, hack, spy, snoop, steal on the rest of the world...."

      Get a grip - ali hat foil wearer - take a deep breath and calm down. You might like to bear in mind that you feel able to make a comment like that in the first place.

      You might like to reflect on the fact that the recent peaceful conclusion of a transfer of power through boring old voting in Nigeria was so surprising that it hit the news, not for the change in government but the lack of bloodshed.

      You may want to forsake the blandishments of your perceived lack of enpowerment and actually open your eyes and see that you *are* free, and able to make a difference - if you can be arsed. Democracy *is* hard for individuals but pretty good for societies.

      Intel agencies have always been with us and rather handy in many cases. If you don't like them or their means then you should probably stand for election - that's how we enact change in democracies. At the very least, you might want to become an activist or lobby your MP/your_elected_representative and not whine here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The opposite situation

        You may want to forsake the blandishments of your perceived lack of enpowerment and actually open your eyes and see that you *are* free, and able to make a difference - if you can be arsed.

        Let me get this right - you're berating people for commenting critically, and in the same breath suggest they cannot be arsed?

        Yes, democracy and freedom is hard - that's why everyone has to remain vigilant of any single entity undoing the concept. As far as I can tell from the definition of democracy, the US has drifted quite far from that idea and this latest idea pretty much proves it. Is it as bad as Nigeria was? Probably not? Can it get that bad? Well, no, not in sight, but words such as "rendition" ought to give you a hint that not all is well.

      2. Phuq Witt

        Re: The opposite situation

        "...You might like to reflect on the fact that the recent peaceful conclusion of a transfer of power through boring old voting in Nigeria was so surprising that it hit the news..."

        Hmmm.... I wonder if 'peaceful transfer of power' would still be the order of the day, had the majority of Nigerians voted for a Boko Haram government? Methinks, in that case Uncle Sam might be loading up the bombers for a bit of 'regime change'.

        Dontcha know democracy only works for as long as the proles keep voting for who they're supposed to vote for?

      3. SolidSquid

        Re: The opposite situation

        It's a perfectly reasonable point to raise, and not just a "ali hat foil wearer" statement. The US is believed to be the most likely source of the Stuxnet virus which targeted Iranian reactors, cables released by Snowden revealed the US spying on foreign leaders during G8, including their allies, and numerous other incidents. Whether it's right or not, the fact is they're apparently now claiming that nobody else is allowed to do that to them even though they're doing it to others

        Also there's a good chance that the previous poster isn't from the US since their focus was on what the US does to the rest of the world, which means they have no ability to influence acts by the US government whatsoever under any democratic system, so comments about democracy being hard and Nigeria are completely irrelevant (especially the Nigeria one, not sure what the relevance of that is even if they *are* American)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The opposite situation

      umm, no. You see, due to a secret FISA ruling in 1957, all inhabitants of planet Earth were given a 16-digit National Security Identifier, which among other things came with a EULA that gave the U.S. permission to monitor all humans born after that year. It also came with a gag-order that prevents anyone from speaking about the EULA, and on top of that there is a retroactive, recursive NSL that allows the US to take reasonable and prudent action to stop anyone from violating the terms of the ruling, the EULA, and/or the NSL.

      Oh and as of 3 years ago it also brought you into the loving embrace of the Affordable Care Act, granting universal insurance coverage to all sentient beings in the universe - but if you did not pay your premiums due to them being unaffordable, you may be eligible for a refund, but if you did not pay and yet could afford it then you go to jail until you can pay bail to go back to work in order to have your wages properly garnished.

      'Merica! F Yeah!

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: The opposite situation

        Bah... doesn't apply to me then. I was born before then never go the EULA. However, now that you spoke of it, will you be getting a change of address to small island 90 miles from Florida?

    3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      The Opposite Situation Rooms Position ... and GOD Given Right

      WTF?

      The opposite situation

      And does the rest of the world have the right to sanction the USA whose "agencies" are only to happy to infiltrate, pirate, hack, spy, snoop, steal on the rest of the world....Khaptain

      In all of the best circles of intelligence and virtual terrain teams, are such agencies by default of their guilt created and sustained by unilateral presidential executive office decree, fair game targets for reversal of fortune/removal of remote powers, virtual command and practical control.

      Great IntelAIgent Gamesplay On. Be aware and beware and take duly diligent grand masterly care out there, for the WWWorld is full of worlds fielding fools following follies ..... and they be fine fodder for modification and exploitation .... Immaculate Use and Wanton Abuse.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: The Opposite Situation Rooms Position ... and GOD Given Right

        What's good for goose, is good for the gander too, so fully expect both covert and clandestine reciprocality from all likely possible targets/systems and/or individuals of interest who most probably also be highly coveted entities on a higher more advanced plane of Greater IntelAIgent Gamesplay.

  8. Mephistro
    Coat

    "Barry Obama"

    When I read that part of the heading, it mildly irritated me. Until I read his declarations. Now it's safe to assume that POTUS is preparing to become an stand up comedian, and "Barry Obama" would be a nice pseudonym for that!. ;-)

    1. RISC OS

      Re: "Barry Obama"

      You forgot his middle name, teabaggers are always mentioning it so it must be important.

      Barry "Hussein" Obama

      1. Dan Paul

        Re: "Barry Obama"

        Yeah, indicative of the Islamic Terrorist sympathizer he is.

  9. Bob Dole (tm)

    Tim foil hat? - maybe

    Events over the past couple of months are starting to come into focus.

    The USA is in a really bad economic situation. It owes a tremendous amount of money to foreign counties and doesn't have the will necessary to stop all the spending in order to head off a major meltdown.

    The majority ownership of this debt are foreigners, mostly China. At the same time the Chinese have zero issues looting American businesses. Opportunity abounds.

    Enter the Sony hack. The FBI declared to was the result of foreign actors way too fast. So fast that the only way to get that answer would be if they either didn't care who really did it, did it themselves or had operatives working within the North Korean government. All are possible. Although the speed with which they made a decision would be a red flag and put any agents in danger. So I think that is the least likely.

    Now, imagine that the USA has evidence, real or not, showing China supported a hacking group which stole from a well known and liked institution. With this new act, the USA could seize all the financial assets China owns within US borders. Poof - no more debt and entirely justified from a legal perspective.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Tim foil hat? - maybe

      The USA can already do that, it can simply refuse to honor US govt bonds held by foreigners.

      The result is that the rest of the world wouldn't accept worthless US debt anymore and would demand gold before selling them stuff like oil or iPhones

      1. CarbonLifeForm

        Re: Tim foil hat? - maybe

        If the US debt you refer to is in the form of T-bills, then all the US has to do is to pay the face value of interest. Some people mistakenly think T-bills are like stock options for a corporation called The USA, and that if you own a lot of them, you "own The USA" and can start repossessing the Grand Canyon or something... Nope. They aren't loan shark markers either.

        An owner of a T-bill, (or a huge slew of them if you're China) can do naught but ask that they be paid interest on the T-bills in their possession. That, or sell them to someone else, who will then get said interest payments. That's it. If e.g. China dump all its T-bills in a fit of pique, their value drops, and since so much of China's assets are in T-bills, well, that would cause them to take a huge loss.

        A good friend of mine (no longer with us sadly) once told me that in debtor creditor relations, the debtor can have the upper hand if the debt is so large that the creditor cannot easily absorb a default. So it is with China. In exchange for a pile of lending, we've given them - pieces of paper called T-bills. The Chinese have to keep buying them to keep the price up, or their net worth will plummet. So here we are. All they can do is keep growing, buy gold, and hope their deadbeat buddy the US snaps out of it and starts making them money again.

        The debt crisis is however real. It is not inconceivable the US could borrow so much that it either (a) is unable to even make the mandated interest payments on the T-bills, or (b) causes the T-bill market to suffer a crash in value as people bid them down, so reducing the income therefrom. That is the real debt crisis, IMO. Not this "China is going to come over and take over the country" silliness, which both left and right love to indulge, though for different reasons.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tim foil hat? - maybe

          Good Points!

          However "they" upped the stakes with BASEL II - when it was decided that treasury bonds issued by an OECD-member state are cash-equivalent. This meant that the banks could replace their already dubious capital reserves of 2% of the outstanding loans with interest-bearing bonds, like, for example, bonds issued by Greece, Spain or maybe Portugal. This is why the Greeks could not be allowed to default. "They" did not fix this in BASEL III either.

          Of course the banks, having learned their lesson (which was that if you are stupid and criminal on a planetary scale, you will be bailed out by the taxpayers), are now sitting with T-bonds as "reserves" ....

          So, if China or a rogue trade-bot throws a hissy-fit and dump T-bonds, blowing up all the banks, will this be construed as "hacking"?

        2. Swarthy

          Re: Tim foil hat? - maybe (@CarbonLifeForm)

          If I owe you $1 million, you own me; if I owe you $10 Trillion, I own you.

    2. P. Lee

      Re: Tim foil hat? - maybe

      >With this new act, the USA could seize all the financial assets China owns within US borders.

      Which kind-of works up until the US needs another loan from the Chinese. Its the nuclear option.

      I'm sure Hollywood hasn't ignored the Sony hack though. Dotcom hosting unreleased films? Ah, all economic sanctions apply. Hosted in a foreign data-centre or with a foreign DNS provider? Shame they can no longer accept VISA or Mastercard payments.

      Do the Swiss have a credit card system of their own? I think its time to start rolling that out.

      What's the next step? Did you not accept that US patents apply world-wide? Well, sorry, but we won't allow you to buy or sell via any US infrastructure.

      Hmmm no buying or selling... presents as harmless as a lamb, behaves in a beastly fashion... where have I heard that before?

  10. Chris Miller
    Joke

    This is an April Fool, isn't it?

    The best ones are those you're not quite sure about :)

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: This is an April Fool, isn't it?

      Smart folk pay no attention to foolish acts and totally ignore the rantings of supporting services and executive administrations.

      But is the following worthy of a joke moniker ....... https://m.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/04/01/executive-order-blocking-property-certain-persons-engaging-significant-m

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: This is an April Fool, isn't it?

        If only at the bottom, the words "April Fool" had been there.... That thing is so vague as to be absurd.

  11. Vimes

    a 1977 federal law that gives the President authority to take action in the face of "any unusual and extraordinary threat."

    It's a bit of a stretch to still describe hacking as either unusual or extraordinary.

    As for executive orders, this sort of behaviour isn't new. Take a look at executive order 12333 as one example, which came about not long after that aforementioned federal law since it's from the Reagan era.

  12. JimmyPage
    Stop

    Used, or "thought to have used"

    isn't this circumventing due process ?

    What does the constitution say about this ?

  13. Trollslayer

    Hypocrites

    Just like they are excluded from the ICC.

  14. Irongut Silver badge

    War on Cyber!

    Because the War on Drugs and War on Terror worked so well.

  15. RISC OS
    Joke

    Only overseas actors...

    ...are there lots of hackers working in the film industry then?

    Why are thespians being targeted so directly?

    Obviously the obama administration doesn't watch jason bourne, I thought these things were called assets now...next you'll be telling me that helicopters aren't called choppers anymore.

  16. Sarah Balfour

    Test post

    Testing. Testing.

    1. SolidSquid

      Re: Test post

      Test successful

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

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