Yesterday a Pentagon report laid the blame for some of the recent hacking attacks in the United States at the feet of the Chinese government and military, and now a group of four US senators have proposed legislation aimed at hurting those the benefit from such actions. The Deter Cyber Theft Act was proposed by Carl Levin (D-MI), John McCain (R-AZ), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Tom Coburn (R-OK), and is designed to address what NSA head General Keith Alexander has called "the greatest transfer of wealth in history" — theft of intellectual property in cyber-related crime.

If it were to become law, the Act would require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to put together an annual report listing what foreign countries are engaging in economic or industrial cyber-espionage in the US, including a watch list of those considered the most egregious offenders. The report would include what information had been targeted by these attacks, what had been stolen, what materials were created using that stolen information, and what foreign companies — including government entities — benefitted. It would also list what steps the DNI and other federal agencies had taken to combat the attacks.

Additionally, it would require that the president block the import of a number of products found to be the result of cyber-espionage. Products containing technology stolen from the US, those made by "state-controlled enterprises" of nations that make the report's watch list, and products manufactured by companies that the DNI decided had benefited from cyber-espionage would all be affected.

There have been an assortment of high-profile hacking attacks over the past few years, including several on major newspapers. Most of them have been traced back to China, with yesterday's Pentagon report only the most recent accusation (China's Ministry of Defense has consistently denied any involvement). "It is time that we fought back to protect American businesses and American innovation," Levin said in a written statement. "We need to call out those who are responsible for cyber theft and empower the president to hit the thieves where it hurts most — in their wallets, by blocking imports of products or from companies that benefit from this theft."