The Obama administration is close to announcing how it will punish Russia for hacking the Democratic Party organizations, state election systems, and the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reports.
While an announcement is expected, some of the retaliation is expected to be covert, the Post says.
In April 2015, Obama signed an executive order creating sanctions which focuses on punishment for those who attack computer systems that are deemed "critical infrastructure," and systems such as electricity generation or transportation, the Post notes.
It allows freezing of assets, blocking commercial transactions, and barring those who violate cyber laws from entering the U.S.
The power led to the Chinese president promising that his country would not hack secrets of U.S. companies in order to benefit businesses in that country, the Post reported.
To make use of the sanctions, the administration could declare election systems to be critical infrastructure, or they could focus the sanctions directly at election interference.
The Post notes officials also want to make it harder for President-elect Donald Trump to reverse the sanctions.
"Part of the goal here is to make sure that we have as much of the record public or communicated to Congress in a form that would be difficult to simply walk back," one official said.
"Having the sanctions tool is really a big one. It can make a very strong statement in a way that is less drastic than bombing a country and more impactful than sending out a cable from the State Department," said Ari Schwartz, former cybersecurity senior director, according to The Post.
Another official said the sanctions are designed to deter users as well as punish them. "As much as I am concerned about what happened to us in the election, I am also concerned about what will happen to us in the future. I am firmly convinced that the Russians and others will say, 'That worked pretty well in 2016, so let's keep going.'"
The New York Times reports Obama took action against Russia, blacklisting 15 Russian individuals and companies because of their actions in Crimea and the Ukraine.
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