White House Demands Crackdown on Hacking

After foreign minister brushed off Chinese government involvement in recent hacking attacks as nothing but an international smear campaign last weekend, U.S. national security adviser demanded today that China crack down on cyber espionage and start negotiating rules for proper behavior in cyberspace. From The New York Times:

The White House, Mr. Donilon said, is seeking three things from Beijing: public recognition of the urgency of the problem; a commitment to crack down on hackers in China; and an agreement to take part in a dialogue to establish global standards.

“Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyberintrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” Mr. Donilon said in a wide-ranging address to the Asia Society in New York.

“The international community,” he added, “cannot tolerate such activity from any country.”

Cyber security analysts in the U.S. claimed in 2011 that they sourced a bulk of China-based cyber attacks against America to about a dozen groups backed or directed by the Chinese government, and a report last month by security firm identified a unit of the People’s Liberation Army that had allegedly stolen large quantities of sensitive data from U.S. companies and government organizations since 2006. And while Chinese have called out evidence from the web to support Mandiant’s claims, the Chinese government has responded by accusing America of perpetrating cyber attacks against China as well.

The issue could become more sensitive for the Obama administration, according to Geoff Dyer and Shannon Bond at the Financial Times, as it wants to prove it can act tough against China but doesn’t want cyber security to dominate Sino-. The Wall Street Journal had more on Donilon’s comments:

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Mr. Donilon raised the issue in his remarks to highlight the priority it has taken in talks with the Chinese government. He sought to provide “a constructive way forward,” Ms. Hayden said, adding, “given the increased media attention, our growing concerns, and the fact that cyber has become a priority topic in our discussions with the Chinese, it made sense to include it in a speech that is intended to highlight our priorities.”

The White House criticism of China Monday followed a highly orchestrated administration rollout recently of a cybersecurity campaign, which included an executive order to bolster the protections for computer networks running critical infrastructure like the electric grid.