European Union members including the UK have launched a new regime that imposes EU sanctions on cyber-security attackers as part of a fresh effort to counter the threat of organised crime and state-sponsored cyber-attacks.
An agreement signed on 17 May in Brussels, gives the UK and the EU rights to impose tough sanctions on players behind cyber-attacks.
Confirming the development, the European Council said it will act on any external threat to the EU or its member states "including cyber-attacks against third states or international organisations".
The official announcement from the UK government said the move is aimed at hostile actors who have been "threatening the EU’s security" by disrupting critical infrastructure, attempting to undermine democracy and stealing commercial secrets and money worth billions of Euros.
"We can now impose tough sanctions on those responsible for malicious cyber-attacks. Trying to interfere in other countries’ democratic processes is becoming normalised," UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted. "Russia please note and take heed."
The proposed sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes "against those we know have been responsible for this," the UK announcement said.
The move comes at a time when the UK is facing the contentious issue of whether to include Chinese telecom major Huawei in building its 5G telecoms network.
Moreover, Brexit has cast a shadow of uncertainty on the data protection norms followed by the UK. As with all the EU-related agreements, the UK will have to establish which EU regulations it complies with, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now accepted as a benchmark.
It was reported earlier that the UK data protection authority has been urging companies to prepare for a no-deal Brexit to make sure that the data flows from Europe are uninterrupted.
The latest decision for coordinated action against cyber-security threats throw up several logistical and administrative questions, particularly as more companies migrate to cloud computing.
Close to two-thirds of small and medium businesses (SMBs) consider that the current measures to protect their data in the cloud are inadequate according to cyber-security firm IS Decisions.
A research report published by IS Decisions last week shows that 29 percent of SMBs have suffered a breach of files or folders since moving to the cloud for storage.
"Almost a third (31 percent) said that since moving to the platform, detecting unauthorised access has become much more difficult, and 22 percent admitted that hackers have gained external access using an employee’s login credentials," said the firm.
Data sovereignty was a major issue with the report citing how organisations offered the chance to migrate to cloud computing often questioned whether their data stored on a server outside of their home country would be subject to a different set of laws.