President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order authorizing targeted sanctions against hackers whose internet activities threatens the U.S. financial stability, foreign policy, and national security.

The Executive Order allows the Treasury Secretary in consultation with the Attorney General and Secretary of State to impose punitive sanctions against individuals and entities involved or responsible in malicious cyberattacks.

Obama Authorizes Sanctions Against Hackers

“Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges to the United States, and my Administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront them,” said Pres. Obama in a statement on Wednesday.

Separately, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew stated that the Executive Order allows the agency to “to expose and financially isolate those who hide in the shadows of the Internet.” He added that the agency would use its authority carefully and judiciously to protect U.S. infrastructures against the most serious cyber threats.

Obama says primary focus will be on cyber threats overseas

President Obama explained that many of the cyberattacks originated overseas, and the hackers are targeting U.S. businesses, stealing trade secrets, costing American jobs.

The President noted the hacking incidents involving Iranian and North Korean hackers who targeted American banks and Sony Pictures, respectively. He also noted that some of the other data breach compromised the personal data of more than 100 million Americans including their credit card and medical information.

“In response to these cyber threats, our government is using every tool at our disposal—including diplomacy, law enforcement, and cooperation with other nations and the private sector?—?to strengthen our defenses and detect, prevent, respond to, and recover from attacks…” said Pres. Obama.

Pres. Obama emphasized that the primary focus of the government would be cyber threats from overseas. He added that diplomatic and enforcement tools remain the most effective response in many cases but targeted sanctions gives the government a new and powerful way to go after the worst cyber criminals when used judiciously.

Pres. Obama said, “Starting today, we’re giving notice to those who pose significant threats to our security or economy by damaging our critical infrastructure, disrupting or hijacking our computer networks, or stealing the trade secrets of American companies or the personal information of American citizens for profit.”

Furthermore, the President warned hackers that authorities have the power to freeze the assets of cyber criminals and limit their ability to make profits from their wrongdoing. Authorities will also make it difficult for them to do business with U.S companies.

Gov’t will also sanction companies that knowingly use stolen trade secrets

Moreover, Pres. Obama pointed out that the Executive Order also authorized sanctions against companies that knowingly use stolen trade secrets to weaken the economic stability of the United States.

The President said the Executive Order will not target unwitting victims of cyberattacks, legitimate cybersecurity research community. Its primary objective is to “protect our national security, personal privacy, and civil liberties. The government “will never try to silence free expression or curb internet freedom.”