U.S.-China Cyber Agreement Doesn't Address Intellectual Property, Non-State Actors

Sep 25, 2015

President Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping are meeting this week to discuss an arms deal for cyberspace. It’s the first of its kind – an agreement not to use cyber weapons to attack each other’s infrastructure. The move would protect things like medical facilities, cell phone towers, banking systems, and power grids.

Rebecca Cruise, the assistant dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says the internet and technology could be the new avenue where war is conducted.

“The Chinese president was on the West Coast earlier this week to talk with businesses from the United States - so Microsoft, Apple, and some others - who are particularly concerned about investing in China,” Cruise said.

But the new agreement does not include one of the biggest problems with cyberattacks coming out of China – the theft of intellectual property, according to The New York Times’ David Sanger:

Most of those attacks have focused on espionage and theft of intellectual property. The rules under discussion would have done nothing to stop the theft of 22 million personal security files from the Office of Personnel Management, which the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., recently told Congress did not constitute an “attack” because it was intelligence collection — something the United States does, too.

The agreement being negotiated would also not appear to cover the use of tools to steal intellectual property, as the Chinese military does often to bolster state-owned industries, according to an indictment of five officers of the People’s Liberation Army last year. And it is not clear that the rules would prohibit the kind of attack carried out last year against Sony Pictures Entertainment, for which the United States blamed North Korea. That attack melted down about 70 percent of Sony’s computer systems.

The agreement only covers government-to-government relations, and there are dozens of third-party groups in both countries attacking each other every day.

“It’s a much larger can of worms,” Cruise said. “This may be a first start, we’ll see.”

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