White House warns China to crack down on cyberattacks

John Ribeiro
12 March, 2013
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A top US official called on China to investigate and stop cyberattacks, which he said pose a growing threat to the countries’ economic relationship.

Tom Donilon, US President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, said the US will take steps to protect its economy from cyberthreats that have eclipsed ordinary cybercrime and hacking.

US businesses have serious concerns about the theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies “through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” he said.

“The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country,” said Donilon in a speech to The Asia Society in New York.

Donilon’s remarks come about three weeks after computer security vendor Mandiant released a comprehensive report that pinpointed a specific Chinese military called “Unit 61398″ as running a massive hacking campaign that struck 141 organisations over the last seven years.

Mandiant’s report added more detail to long-running research from security companies and other organisations that had identified a group nicknamed the “Comment Crew” as extremely active in targeting US companies and other organisations worldwide.

The report has contributed to increasing tension between the US and China, which has denied that it allows state-sponsored hacking and conversely said it has seen hacking activity originating from the US.

The US would like China to take three steps, Donilon said. First, the US wants China to recognise the threat cyberattacks pose to international trade and its relationship with the US.

China should also take steps to “put a stop to these activities” and engage in a constructive direct dialogue “to establish acceptable norms of behaviour in cyberspace,” Donilon said.

“Economies as large as the United States and China have a tremendous shared stake in ensuring that the Internet remains open, interoperable, secure, reliable and stable,” Donilon said.

In January 2010, Google said it would review whether to continue operating in China following attacks on its network that it alleged came from China. The company said attackers targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists and also stole some of its intellectual property

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