US-China Cyber Espionage Discussions Fail To Deliver

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Discussions between President Obama and President Xi Jinping bring nothing concrete

Despite much anticipation, President Barack Obama’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered next to nothing on cyber espionage.

It was expected the US would challenge China over reports of increased intellectual property theft from American companies, much of it allegedly state-sponsored.

China has repeatedly denied the allegations it is backing the cyber attacks, and over the weekend all that emerged was an understanding of how America felt about the situation.

America US China - Shutterstock © AquirCyber espionage disagreements

“It’s quite obvious now that the Chinese senior leadership understand clearly the importance of this issue to the United States,” said Obama’s national security adviser Tom Donilon, according to various reports.

The US government is currently embroiled in a media storm over leaks related to surveillance operations allegedly providing them access to servers run by major Internet firms, including Microsoft, Facebook and Google. The PRISM furore may have placed the US in an awkward position to talk about cyber issues.

China has repeatedly been accused of hacking American organisations. Last month, it was claimed Chinese hackers stole information on more than 24 major weapons designs.

It is believed Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army is also actively carrying out cyber espionage on over 100 US firms.

But China recently hit back. Huang Chengqing, director of the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Centre of China (CNCERT), said many of the Trojans that infect Chinese machines are controlled by servers in the US.

The cyber domain appears to be one where the US and China will continue to disagree, but Obama and Xi came to agreements in other areas. Both said they would work with other nations to cut hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), greenhouse gases known to be damaging for the environment.

“A global phase down of HFCs could potentially reduce some 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, equal to roughly two years worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions,” a statement on the White House website read.

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