National Security Advisor Tom Donilon demanded in a speech yesterday that China put a stop to the theft of U.S. firms’ data through cyberattacks. This is the first time that a U.S. official has specifically named China in regards to cybercrime. A cyber security firm recently released information that attacks were coming from an area in China that is home to a large cyberunit of the People’s Liberation Army, information which lines up with the U.S.’s own data on the attacks, making it difficult for the U.S. to not deal with this problem directly. This comes at a complicated time for U.S.-Chinese relations as the U.S. is seeking the diplomatic help of the Chinese government in negotiations with an increasingly hostile North Korea.
Although not fully addressed by the article, the theft of U.S. firms’ data brings up the issue of intellectual property rights and the ease of the dissemination of information during this technological age. It has become increasingly difficult for companies, governments, and individuals to protect their intellectual property, and developing countries (read: China) view the international organizations in charge of protecting those rights, such as WIPO, as biased towards the wealthy, developed countries (read: U.S.). Although the announcement came as a demand, one of the things the U.S. wants China to do is to work together to help establish a set of rules to act as a global standard on cyberspace protocol in order to alleviate these problems.
The White House, Mr. Donilon said, is seeking three things from Beijing: public recognition of the urgency of the problem; a commitment to crack down on hackers in China; and an agreement to take part in a dialogue to establish global standards.
What result will come from the U.S. calling out China on this issue remains to be seen.