The US government says it plans to put diplomatic pressure on governments over cyber crime and prosecute offenders.
US attorney general Eric Holder said the plan included working with like-minded governments to tackle offenders using trade restrictions and criminal prosecutions.
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive emails regarding relevant topic offers from TechTarget and its partners. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact TechTarget at 275 Grove Street, Newton, MA.
"A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk," Eric Holder said.
There will be a 120-day review to see whether new US legislation is needed.
The news comes just days after US security company Mandiant released a report that says a secretive branch of China's military based in Shanghai is one of the world's "most prolific cyber espionage groups".
According to Mandiant, Unit 61398 has "systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data" from at least 141 organisations around the world, but mainly in the UK, US and Canada.
Read more about critical infrastructure
- Is UK critical national infrastructure properly protected?
- Government to monitor companies supporting critical national infrastructure
- Critical infrastructure security: Electric industry shows the path
- GRC Management and Critical Infrastructure Protection
- NetWars CyberCity missions to improve critical infrastructure protection
- Steve Lipner on the Microsoft SDL, critical infrastructure protection
The US said it had taken its concerns about cyber theft to the highest levels of China's government. But the Chinese government denied hacking and questioned the accuracy of Mandiant's report.
The Obama administration has said its strategy aims to counter what Holder called "a significant and steadily increasing threat to America's economy and national security interests,” according to the Guardian.
Concerns about such cyber activities were highlighted by US president Barack Obama in his State of the Union address.
The order also requires the creation of a cyber security framework aimed at reducing risks to companies providing critical infrastructure.
Holder said that, as technology removed traditional barriers to international business and global commerce, it has also made it easier for criminals to steal secrets from anywhere in the world.
Some estimates put losses by US companies in 2012 due to intellectual property (IP) theft at more than $300bn. Victims include General Motors, Ford, Dow Chemical, Motorola, Boeing and Cargill.
Cyber security and intelligence experts welcomed the White House plan as a first step but some said much more needed to be done to protect private corporations against state-sponsored espionage.