Obama: Cybersecurity 'key' in talks with China

Obama: Cybersecurity 'key' in talks with China

Summary: Will talks between Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping shed light on accusations that China is a source of cyberattacks?

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Credit: CNET

In talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Obama stated that cybersecurity is a "key" topic in discussions between both nations.

Bloomberg reports that during a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Obama said that as cybercrime continues to gain traction, the issue would be a "key part" of talks between the two nations.

According to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, on the same day that Xi replaced Hu Jintao as President, both leaders agreed to hold additional discussions on cybersecurity as part of regular talks between the two nations over issues including security and the economy.

In an effort to try and curb cyberattacks aimed at both businesses and state networks, cybercrime is now the top priority for the U.S. to tackle.

The finger has often been pointed at China, Africa and Russia as origins of many cybercrime networks and hacking attempts. Last month, security firm Mandiant released a security report which suggested an "overwhelming" number of cyberattacks originate from China, with possible criminal networks traced back to a military building in Shanghai.

Hired by the New York Times, the firm said that "thousands of people" were continually generating attacks from this singular building, a claim that China denies, calling them "groundless accusations."

In another example, a government-snooping campaign called "Red October" was recently exposed by Kaspersky Labs. Designed to steal government data with origins potentially in Russia and China, the highly complex network has managed to harvest confidential data from high-profile targets over the past five years.

It is the state-sponsored cybercrime networks which are currently causing the most worry. U.S. intelligence and security officials recently met for a series of talks on how best to fight back, saying that cybercrime is now more of a threat to national security than terrorism or physical warfare. Measures are currently being proposed to protect core infrastructure and critical networks -- including the creation of an offensive 'cyber warrior' department -- but this may not be enough.

So, you go to the source.

White House officials are trying to hold China publicly accountable for hacking attempts against American networks, just as National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon commented this week that "cyber intrusions emanating from China at a very large scale" and leaders should take steps to reign in their citizens. Obama expects governmental bodies and private industries to work together to combat the issue -- in conjunction with persuasive political means, one would assume -- although CEOs hailing from the technology, finance and energy industries have requested that the government takes a "soft" approach when it comes to future legislation.

Chinese officials have staunchly rejected claims that China is one of the major players in the cybercrime world, commenting that the Asian country has often been a victim of hackers itself. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told the publication that China will work with international bodies to "protect peace, safety, openness and cooperation in cyberspace.”

Topics: China, Government US, Security

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  • Towards cyber diplomacy

    Cyber quarrelling ‒ lately practiced by the US and China ‒ makes the need for increased openness and international cooperation in the domain clearly evident. An inclusionary process for negotiating cyber rules should be established in order to overcome the severe problems related to cyber espionage and other forms of cyber hostility.

    The quarrelling intensified, when Mandiant, a private US cyber security company, in its February report pointed a finger towards China and accused her of systematic intrusions into governmental and business networks. These accusations are nothing new as such but reflect a widely recognised problem. What is new is the US attitude towards and response to Chinese intrusions.

    The US cyber policy is becoming less tolerant towards breaches of the tacit cyber etiquette and more denunciatory. The Obama administration has been, and is, under public pressure to take a more firm stance to cyber security. As a response, it has e.g. constructed a hierarchy of the capabilities of potential adversaries to guide policy making. The report of Defence Science Board from January lists adversaries from tier I to tier VI. The top tier adversaries are not only able to abuse existing vulnerabilities, but also to create new ones ‒ even to highly protected systems. It names China, alongside the US and Russia, as one of the most apt cyber actors capable of inflicting existential damage on opponents.

    China, on the other hand, has declared that she condemns cybercrime, has not been systematically involved in such activity and suffers from the same consequences of cyber hostility as other countries. Lately, China has also expressed her willingness to enter multinational negotiations dealing with cyber security issues and thus, signalled interest in cooperation.

    It seems that bets are rising in the cyber game. Despite the declarations of goodwill, espionage is common on each side and produces significant economic losses and other problems related to compromised security. In addition, the heads of the US intelligence organisations named cyber security as the top current security issue in a congressional hearing this month. This implicates the end of terrorism dominated security discourse and policy in the US.

    The only way to overcome cyber problems is to engage in rules making and practical cooperation to organise the diffuse cyberspace. There is a real and urgent need for this, as the importance of the domain for every aspect of life is continuously increasing. Diplomacy ought to take over the international cyber agenda. Otherwise, the current tensions will only intensify.
    Jarno Limnéll
  • Cyber attack?

    Were you born a bird, a cat or plain human?
    When asking this, can one become the other?
    Then why does a fool not see the other fool has or is being played with?
    When you know very well from past history you can not trust the other.
    Has china ever been honest with it's attacks? When in one hand it does as it pleases it's fools that rule.
    Now you know very well they are behind this and you assume a leopard can change it's spots over night!
    Only a fool that rules would assume this, and if you studied the good book, you would know that both these men are both fools deceiving all others with their so elegant speech of lies!
    Not one of them would give their lives for another as Christ so dearly did.
    If they would, why do they have to have such huge armies to protect themselves?
    So why read this article any more then it's title when you can see that both are deceptive liars!
    CMAenergy