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Americans Want Government to React to Nation-State Cyberattacks: Survey

Most Americans believe their government should take action against nation states that launch cyberattacks against government organizations in the United States.

Most Americans believe their government should take action against nation states that launch cyberattacks against government organizations in the United States.

A study conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of data security company Vormetric found that 92 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government should react to cyberattacks in which government data is compromised.

Of the 1,026 people who took part in the survey, 45 percent believe the president should initiate diplomatic talks to prevent future data breaches. Roughly one third of respondents want trade sanctions to be imposed on the offending country’s goods. Diplomatic sanctions on the attacking country’s government officials located in the United States are an action preferred by 31 percent of respondents.

Some Americans want even stronger measures. A quarter of respondents believe the U.S. should cut off all ties with countries responsible for data breaches, while 10 percent believe the government should hack back.

The study was conducted after attackers reportedly based in China gained access to the records of 21 million federal employees stored on the systems of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was also hacked this year when attackers allegedly located in Russia stole information on 100,000 taxpayers.

“The OPM and IRS breaches this year bring focus back to the fact that criminal hacking for financial gain is only one of the motivations behind cyberattacks and data breaches” said Alan Kessler, president and CEO of Vormetric. “Spying out government secrets and stealing critical intellectual property are the other side of the coin from criminal hacks. With ninety two percent in favor of taking action, and a substantial percentage favoring active measures – such as the one in four that want to cut off diplomatic ties, and the ten percent in favor of ‘hacking back’ – sentiments are clearly running hot on this issue. ”

In April, President Obama signed an executive order which authorizes the government to block the financial assets of malicious actors involved in cyber attacks against US targets.

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Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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