Obama: Cybersecurity 'key' in talks with China

Will talks between Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping shed light on accusations that China is a source of cyberattacks?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
china america obama talks cybercrime security
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.”

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