President Obama Talks Cybersecurity with Chinese Leader; Same Day Report Leaks on U.S. Hacking Initiative

Cybersecurity

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta conducts a joint press briefing with China’s Minister of National Defense, Gen. Liang Guanglie at the Pentagon. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

President Obama on Friday met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to address the growing need for cybersecurity cooperation between the two countries.

Just one week after reports surfaced claiming that China had hacked into U.S. networks to steal military weapons design plans, the two leaders used an informal summit at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, California to address the countries’ cyber challenges.

“What both President Xi and I recognize is that because of these incredible advances in technology, that the issue of cybersecurity and the need for rules and common approaches to cybersecurity are going to be increasingly important as part of bilateral relationships and multilateral relationships,” said Obama, following the talks.

“In some ways, these are uncharted waters,” he added. “You don’t have the kinds of protocols that cover military issues, for example, and arms issues where nations have a lot of experience in trying to negotiate what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

According to The New York Times, President Xi dodged a reporter’s question on whether China had infiltrated U.S. networks to steal intellectual property on U.S. weapons. Though, the Chinese official did agree with Obama on the growing need for international cyber collaboration.

“By conducting good faith cooperation, we can remove misgivings and make information security and cybersecurity a positive area of cooperation between China and the U.S.,” advised Xi.

Meanwhile, President Obama may have some explaining of his own to do on the cyber front, following a leaked report on a U.S. hacking initiative.

According to U.K. publication The Guardian, Obama in October 2012 issued Presidential Policy Directive 20, in which he ordered federal officials to create a list of potential overseas targets for the U.S. to hit with cyber attacks.

In the directive, the president called for a cyber operation with “unique and unconventional capabilities to advance U.S. national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging.”

Coupled with recent reports that the NSA has tapped U.S. citizen’s cell phone calls and monitored Internet traffic of people outside of the U.S., the latest news is likely to continue to raise debates on cybersecurity and privacy and further stall the number of cyber bills on Capitol Hill.

Michelle Kincaid is a DC-based public affairs professional specializing in technology policy. She is creator of the blog CybersecurityNews.org.

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