US considering sanctions against Chinese companies

The United States are considering sanctions against Chinese companies which it believes benefitted from the recent hacking of US trade secrets, Washington Post said on Sunday.

According to the report, the White House blames China for the recent hack, which saw the personnel records of at least 4.2 million current and former government workers compromised.

China, on the other hand, denied all involvement in the attack.

The final decision on whether sanctions will be imposed or not could be made within the next two weeks, Washington Post said, citing several unidentified Obama administration officials.

U.S. government officials and cyber analysts say Chinese hackers are using high-tech tactics to build massive databases that could be used for traditional espionage, such as recruiting spies or gaining access to secure data on other networks.

A senior administration official said in reply to a Reuters query that President Barack Obama noted when he signed an executive order earlier this year enabling the use of economic sanctions against cyber hackers that the administration "is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront such actors."

"That strategy includes diplomatic engagement, trade policy tools, law enforcement mechanisms, and imposing sanctions on individuals or entities that engage in certain significant, malicious cyber-enabled activities," the official said.

"We are assessing all of our options to respond to these threats in a manner and time frame of our choosing," the official added.

Neither White House nor The State Department commented on the report. The newspaper said the sanctions would not be imposed as retaliation for the suspected hacking of the U.S. government personnel records, as they were deemed to have been carried out for intelligence reasons rather than to benefit Chinese industry.