Security Experts:

Britain Leads Calls for EU Action Against Hackers

British Prime Minister Theresa May will call on fellow EU leaders Thursday to take united action to punish cyber attackers, warning hackers cause economic harm and undermine democracies.

Britain is among eight European Union countries pushing for the bloc to urgently agree a new sanctions regime to address malign cyber activities.

"We should accelerate work on EU restrictive measures to respond to and deter cyber attacks, including a robust sanctions regime," May will say, according to pre-released comments.

She will add: "Malign cyber activity causes harm to our economies, and undermines our democracies.

"As well as protecting ourselves against attack, we must impose proportionate consequences on those who would do us harm."

The move comes amid growing concern at Russia's activities, with Western powers blaming Moscow for numerous acts of hacking and electronic interference.

This month the Netherlands revealed dramatic details of a bid by Russia's GRU military intelligence agency to hack the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

This was "a stark example of the very real threats that we face", May will say, but also "a clear example of where these attacks can be prevented".

A confidential EU proposal seen by AFP and backed by Britain, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Finland, Romania and the Netherlands warns that "the pace of events has accelerated considerably".

The paper says it is "only a matter of time before we are hit by a critical operation with severe consequences on the EU".

Lithuania and the other Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia, say they come under near-daily cyber attacks, most originating in Russia, targeting everything from banks and government institutions to transport infrastructure.

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) revealed this week that it has dealt with more than 1,100 cyber incidents in the two years since it was set up, the majority carried out from within "hostile nation states".

May has repeatedly stressed that despite Britain leaving the EU in March, London wants the fullest possible security relationship with the bloc post-Brexit.

If approved, the EU sanctions regime would freeze assets held in the bloc by targeted individuals and ban them from travelling to the 28 member states.

But the proposal may face resistance from some EU members who want to improve relations with Russia, such as the new Italian government.

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