The recent U.S. – China Strategic & Economic Dialogue appears to have produced some breakthroughs on norms of cyber behavior. Coming on the heels of the OPM hack, this would be welcome news for both sides.
Secretary of State Kerry commented that the discussions were direct but not hostile. This follows an increased emphasis in U.S. policy documents on the risk of cyberespionage. The U.S. has indicted Chinese officials over previous cyber breaches and the heated rhetoric regarding China’s role in cyber espionage between the two nations has generally increased.
The challenge for governments worldwide is that espionage is often considered to be fair game in international affairs when the target is military or national security information. Gentlemen do in fact read each other’s mail whether they acknowledge it or not. Intelligence agencies seek to obtain information about potential adversaries’ plans and capabilities so they can ‘map the battlefield’ for future events. However, the international understanding breaks down when the exploitation of information becomes commercial.
The key passage in the press encounter is a quote by Secretary Kerry “But on the broader issue of cybersecurity, China also has a very clear interest in making certain that everybody is behaving by a certain set of standards. And President Obama made that very clear in the meeting that we had at the White House this afternoon. So what we want to do is bridge the differences now, and that’s what we set out to do in the conversations that we had today. There are common international norms of behavior that are anticipatable by nations. We need to work together in order to define those and then live by them. And I think that that message was clearly delivered and received, and hopefully, that work will begin in earnest very, very quickly.”
The establishment of international norms of behavior in cyberspace has been a goal of the U.S. for a number of years and is clearly articulated in the Obama Administration’s International Strategy for Cyberspace. Coming to an agreement with China will go a long way to achieving this goal.
Read more of Dr. Newmeyer’s blogs at: http://www.nationalcybersecurityinstitute.org/about/fellows/kevin-newmeyer/