16:13 GMT21 February 2020
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    Washington is considering a broad range of retaliatory actions against Beijing for the recent massive government data breach associated with the country’s hackers, local media reported Saturday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Washington is considering a broad range of retaliatory actions against Beijing for the recent massive government data breach associated with the country’s hackers, local media reported Saturday.

    The New York Times cited an unnamed senior administration official involved in deliberations as saying the United States needs to be "a bit more public about our responses" to prevent future cyberattacks.

    "We need to disrupt and deter what our adversaries are doing in cyberspace, and that means you need a full range of tools to tailor a response," the official said.

    The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced early last month it had discovered a large cybersecurity breach compromising the personal data of nearly every current and many former US federal employees in April.

    Subsequent investigations linked Chinese hackers to the security breach that resulted in the theft of over 21 million personal, financial and health data, including over a million fingerprint records.

    Weighing his options and attempting to avoid a public row with China, US President Barack Obama has tasked his staff to come up with "a more creative set of responses," according to the publication.

    One of the responses under brief consideration was imposing economic sanctions against China, which was ruled by the Commerce Department and the Treasury officials as fraught with debilitating counter-sanctions.

    The Justice Department is mulling more targeted litigation against those directly involved in the cyberattack, the outlet continued. Intelligence officials warn, however, that criminal prosecution may expose US espionage operations within China.

    A retaliatory cyberattack and publication of classified Chinese government files is among other options under consideration.

    The newspaper cites two administration officials familiar with the matter as saying one of the most innovative responses being considered is penetrating China’s complex network of Internet censorship dubbed the "great firewall."

    But because any one of the retaliatory actions could lead to a cycle of escalation in cyberattacks, the officials cited by the publication warn that the United States’ response may not come anytime soon – or be obvious when it does.


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