US will pile diplomatic pressure on cyber crime nations, says attorney general Eric Holder

Attorney general Eric Holder says the US will put diplomatic pressure on foreign governments over cyber crime and plans to prosecute offenders

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.

"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.

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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.

President Obama signed a long-awaited executive order requiring federal agencies to share cyber threat information with private companies.

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.

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