China syndromeU.S. to adopt tougher stance toward China’s persistent cyberattacks

Published 1 February 2013

The Obama administration let it be known that it is examining the adoption of a more assertive stance against China in response to a persistent cyber-espionage campaign waged by Chinese government hackers against U.S. companies and government agencies. The administration is preparing a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which will detail the cyberthreat, particularly from China, as a growing economic problem.

China-based cyberattacks continue // Source: nghiencuubiendong.vn

The Obama administration let it be known that it is examining the adoption of a more assertive stance against China in response to a persistent cyber-espionage campaign waged by Chinese government hackers against U.S. companies and government agencies.

Fox News reports that two former U.S. officials said the administration is preparing a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which will detail the cyberthreat, particularly from China, as a growing economic problem.

One official told Fox News it also will cite more directly a role by the Chinese government in such espionage.

The NIE will underscore the administration’s concerns about the threat, and will put greater weight on plans for more aggressive action against the Chinese government.

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States must send a strong message that it will respond to such incidents.

We have to begin making it clear to the Chinese  — they’re not the only people hacking us or attempting to hack us — that the United States is going to have to take action to protect not only our government’s, but our private sector, from this kind of illegal intrusions. There’s a lot that we are working on that will be deployed in the event that we don’t get some kind of international effort under way,” she said.

Obviously this can become a very unwelcome and even dangerous tit-for-tat that could be a crescendo of consequences, here at home and around the world, that no one wants to see happen,” she said.

Fox News notes that the administration hasn’t yet decided what steps it may take, but that such actions could include threats to cancel certain visas or put major purchases of Chinese goods through national security reviews.

The U.S. government has started to look seriously at more assertive measures and begun to engage the Chinese on senior levels,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “They realize that this is a major problem in the bilateral relationship that threatens to destabilize U.S. relations with China.”

In a report in November 2011, U.S. intelligence officials for the first time publicly accused China and Russia of engaging in a systematic campaign of stealing American high-tech data for economic gain.

The White House declined comment on whether it will pursue aggressive action on China.

The United States has substantial and growing concerns about the threats to U.S. economic and national security posed by cyber intrusions, including the theft of commercial information,” said spokesman Caitlin Hayden. “We have repeatedly raised our concerns with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and we will continue to do so.”

Fox News notes that cybersecurity experts have been urging tougher action, saying that talking with China has had no effect.

We need to find new approaches if we want to dissuade this type of activity,” said Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary at the Homeland Security Department and now in private law practice with Steptoe and Johnson in Washington. He said the U.S. must do a better job of attributing the cyberattacks to particular groups or nations and “see if we can sanction the people who are actually benefiting from them.”

Alan Paller, director of research at SANS Institute, a computer-security organization, told Fox News that the level of cyberattacks, including against power companies and critical infrastructure, has shot up in the last seven or eight months. The United States is also getting more serious about blocking the attacks, including an initiative by the Defense Department to hire thousands of high-tech experts.

Lewis, who has met and worked with Chinese officials on the issue, told Fox News that their response has been consistent denial that China is involved in the hacking and counter-accusations that the United Ststes is guilty of the same things.

In the next year there will be an effort to figure out a way to engage the Chinese more energetically,” he said. “The issue now is how do we get the Chinese to take this more seriously as a potentially major disruption to the relationship.”

The answer, he said, is, “You have to back up words with actions, and that’s the phase I think we’re approaching.”

 

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