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Lawmakers to introduce new bill to punish cyber theft

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers speaks at the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers speaks at the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A day before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the United States, three U.S. lawmakers plan to propose a new law that would punish hackers backed by China, Russia or other foreign governments for cyber spying and theft.

The new bill, to be introduced on Thursday, would freeze U.S. assets of individual foreign hackers and revoke visas for them and their families, according to a spokeswoman for Representative Mike Rogers, one of the authors of the measure.

Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and leads cybersecurity efforts in Congress, is introducing the bill together with Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio and Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

President Barack Obama will meet with Xi in California this week and plans to tell him that Washington considers Beijing responsible for any cyber attacks launched from Chinese soil and that China must abide by international "rules of the road" on cybersecurity.

China has consistently denied U.S. accusations of cyber hacking and has insisted it is more a victim than a perpetrator.

The White House declined to specify what, if any, punitive measures the United States might take if Xi refuses to cooperate and the cyber threats persist.

"Cyber hackers from nation-states like China and Russia have been aggressively targeting U.S. markets, stealing valuable intellectual property, and then repurposing it and selling it as their own," Rogers' office said.

The new bill, the text of which has not yet been released, will be the second such legislation taken up by Congress after a group of senators introduced the Deter Cyber Theft Act last month.

That Senate bill focuses on tracking nations that engage in economic or industrial cyber espionage and blocking imports of products containing stolen U.S. technology, among other things. It was introduced by Democrats Carl Levin of Michigan and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The House bill will focus on identifying individual hackers instead of companies or products, to make their names public and force them to face consequences, said Kelsey Knight, spokeswoman for Rogers.

Both bills are expected to face a challenge in Congress this year. A divided Congress has not approved much legislation in recent years, while it has been consumed by partisan fiscal battles.

The House earlier this year passed another cybersecurity bill co-authored by Rogers, which is meant to ease sharing of cyber threat data between companies and the government. Senators are working on their own version of information-sharing legislation.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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