Senators propose crackdown on cyber theft

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“Trade-secret theft and economic espionage threaten American companies and our nation’s economic competitiveness. Foreign thieves and hackers must not be allowed to escape accountability through loopholes in our criminal laws,” Whitehouse said in a statement.

He said he plans to hold a subcommittee hearing in the fall to consider the legislation. 

“There are different ways people can steal from you: a guy can walk up to you with a gun or he can just hack your computer while sitting on his couch in another country,” Graham said. “Trade-secret theft and economic espionage can become forms of financial warfare."

The White House has said that combating the theft of trade secrets is a top priority. In a strategy unveiled earlier this year, the White House said it will use "trade policy tools" to pressure other countries to stop hacking U.S. companies and to enforce intellectual property laws.

Analysts, companies and lawmakers have accused China of being the biggest perpetrator of economic espionage. The Chinese military has been continuously hacking into U.S. companies and critical infrastructure systems, according to reports.