Obama adds voice to accusations of China hacking (Update)

Mar 13, 2013 by Rob Lever
Barack Obama, pictured on March 4, 2013 at the White House in Washington. The US president said in an interview aired Wednesday that some, but not necessarily all, cyber attacks on US firms and infrastructure originating in China were "state sponsored."

President Barack Obama entered the fray Wednesday on cyber attacks from China, saying some intrusions affecting US firms and infrastructure were "state sponsored."

The comments appeared to step up the rhetoric against China following similar remarks from other members of the US administration.

"What is absolutely true is that we have seen a steady ramping up of cyber security threats. Some are state sponsored. Some are just sponsored by criminals," Obama said in an interview with ABC News aired Wednesday.

"We've made it very clear to China and some other state actors that, you know, we expect them to follow international norms and abide by international rules.

"And we'll have some pretty tough talk with them. We already have," Obama said, complaining that billions of dollars and industrial secrets were lost due to hacking.

The comments by the president came after a series of warnings from top US security officials that Washington would not stand idly by in the face of these threats.

General Keith Alexander, who heads the US National Security Agency and Cyber Command, told lawmakers Tuesday that the military is creating units that would have offensive capabilities in cyberspace as part of efforts to protect US infrastructure.

"This is an offensive team that the Defense Department would use to defend the nation if it were attacked in cyberspace," Alexander told a Senate panel.

"Thirteen of the teams that we're creating are for that mission set alone."

James Lewis, a cybersecurity specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the heightened rhetoric suggests Washington's patience has worn thin with China and some other governments after numerous diplomatic initiatives.

"There is some intelligence which hasn't been made public that points toward China as the major actor in economic espionage," Lewis told AFP.

"Embarrassing the Chinese doesn't work, and this raises the ante."

Lewis said the new comments suggest the US military could disrupt hackers from China or elsewhere if they are involved in "attacks that could cost American lives or could do significant damage to the economy."

"The military has a new role and it strikes me as legitimate," Lewis said.

Obama and national security officials met earlier in the Situation Room to discuss cybersecurity with chief executives from major companies in sectors including energy, telecom, finance and defense.

"The president and the CEOs discussed the increasing cyber threats to our critical infrastructure and our economy," according to a White House official.

They spoke about the need for cybersecurity legislation and ways for the private and public sectors to collaborate on defenses.

The president also discussed a recent executive order on cybersecurity.

China said it was willing to cooperate with the United States and others to combat hacking and also noted that it was a victim of such attacks.

"What is necessary in cyberspace is not war, but rather regulation and cooperation," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Last month, a report from US security firm Mandiant said a unit of China's People's Liberation Army had stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations, mostly based in the United States.

CIA Director John Brennan told a panel on Tuesday that "the seriousness and the diversity of the threats that this country faces in the cyber domain are increasing on a daily basis."

US national intelligence chief James Clapper said that there was "a remote chance of a major cyber attack against US critical infrastructure systems during the next two years that would result in long-term, wide-scale disruption of services, such as a regional power outage."

But he noted that "isolated state or non-state actors might deploy less sophisticated cyber attacks," which could affect "some poorly protected US networks that control core functions, such as power generation."

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon warned China on Monday against cyber threats.

Donilon said that US businesses are growing more concerned "about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information through cyber-intrusions emanating from China at a very large scale."

"Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities," he said.

Explore further: Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US urges China to probe, halt cyber spying

Mar 11, 2013

Beijing must take steps to investigate and halt cybercrime, a top US official said Monday, warning the international community cannot tolerate the widespread hacking coming from China.

Pentagon forming cyber teams to prevent attacks (Update 2)

Mar 12, 2013

The Defense Department is establishing a series of cyber teams charged with carrying out offensive operations to combat the threat of an electronic assault on the United States that could cause major damage and disruption ...

US needs offensive weapons in cyberwar: general

Oct 04, 2012

The United States needs to develop offensive weapons in cyberspace as part of its effort to protect the nation from cyber attacks, a senior military official said Thursday.

US Senate in new cybersecurity push

Feb 15, 2012

US senators, warning of potentially catastrophic cyberattacks, introduced a bill Tuesday aimed at protecting critical infrastructure such as power, water and transportation systems.

Recommended for you

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Dec 18, 2014

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

UN General Assembly OKs digital privacy resolution

Dec 18, 2014

The U.N. General Assembly has approved a resolution demanding better digital privacy protections for people around the world, another response to Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government spying.

Online privacy to remain thorny issue: survey

Dec 18, 2014

Online privacy will remain a thorny issue over the next decade, without a widely accepted system that balances user rights and personal data collection, a survey of experts showed Thursday.

Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

Dec 16, 2014

Google on Tuesday followed through with a pledge to shut down Google News in Spain in reaction to a Spanish law requiring news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

frajo
not rated yet Mar 14, 2013
"We've made it very clear to China and some other state actors that, you know, we expect them to follow international norms and abide by international rules."

Said by someone who protects a mass murder and war criminal predecessor and government, torturers, "extralegal renditions", one who doesn't close Guantanamo, kills children by drone attacks, entitles himself to kill anybody anywhere without due process, and enables the most illegal, aggressive, and hostile country of the planet to disrespect any UN resolution, develop nuclear weapons nobody else is allowed to develop, and to continuously terrorize a victimized people.

It's about time he follows his own advice and stops to play the exceptionalism card.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.