September 21, 2015

Ahead of Xi's Visit, U.S. Struggling to Stop China's Hackers

By Dr. Patrick M. Cronin

Source: Foreign Policy

Journalist(s) Elias Groll

President Barack Obama has a blunt message for Beijing’s hacker army: You’re good, but we’re better. “If we wanted to go on offense,” he boasted to a group of business leaders last week, “a whole bunch of countries would have some significant problems.”  

The tough talk reflects Obama’s insistence that the United States has ways of retaliating for what he has described as the rampant theft of American intellectual property by Chinese state-sponsored hackers, an issue likely to dominate the president’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, later this week. But Obama’s bluster underlines what has become a depressing reality for the president as he approaches the end of his tenure in office: Despite years of threats, cajoling, and indictments aimed at deterring China from stealing American commercial secrets, Washington has made little progress in developing a set of tools that would deter Beijing’s cyberspies from breaching the networks of major companies like Westinghouse and then passing on their trade secrets to Chinese state-owned enterprises. As a result, the administration is considering rolling out a limited set of sanctions against Chinese firms suspected of benefiting from economic espionage — and perhaps the hackers who carried out the operations as well. 

Lacking the tools to force China to give up its commercial espionage, Obama and his top spy, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have spoken in recent weeks of the need for a “basic international framework” to establish “rules of the road” for cyberspace. With Xi in town, Beijing and Washington are negotiating what the New York Times reported on Saturday as an arms control agreement for cyberspace that would bar either country from waging a hacking campaign against the other nation’s critical infrastructure.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.

  • Dr. Patrick M. Cronin

    Senior Advisor and Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Security Program

    Patrick M. Cronin is a Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Previously, he was the Senior ...