The U.S. National Security Adviser issued a surprisingly stern warning to China on Monday when he specifically called out the country by name when discussing cyber threats to the U.S. government and businesses.
“Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” said Tom Donilon, the U.S. National Security Adviser, in a speech to the Asian Society in New York.
President Obama and his administration has raised the level of urgency in protecting the government and domestic businesses from the increased level of cyber attacks. However, U.S. leaders have avoided calling China out by name in the past.
Obama issued a call to increase cyber protection from increasing threats in his State of the Union, but he didn’t list China as a specific threat.
“We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems,” Obama said in his State of the Union.
On Monday, Donilon didn’t stray from naming China and pointing to the high number of cyber attacks that come from the country. He said that U.S. officials across federal agencies have addressed the concerns with Chinese leaders.
“From the President on down, this has become a key point of concern and discussion with China at all levels of our governments. And it will continue to be,” Donilon said. “The United States will do all it must to protect our national networks, critical infrastructure, and our valuable public and private sector property.”
China has long been established as the worst offender for hosting attacks. Analysts have said thousands of cyber attacks target the White House every day. Many are assumed to emanate from China.
In September, a Chinese group of hackers reportedly broke into a White House network in what was called one of “Beijing’s most brazen cyberattacks.” The hackers broke into a “system used by the White House Military Office for nuclear commands,” according to a USA Today report.
Obama and his team have since increased the pressure on the Chinese to stop the state sponsored attacks or combat the groups responsible for them. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussed U.S. concerns on his last trip through the country.
Donilon went a step further issuing three steps the Chinese need to take to improve U.S. relations in regard to cyber security.
“First, we need a recognition of the urgency and scope of this problem and the risk it poses—to international trade, to the reputation of Chinese industry and to our overall relations,” he said. “Second, Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities. Finally, we need China to engage with us in a constructive direct dialogue to establish acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace.”
Considering how the economies of the U.S. and China — the world’s two largest — depend on the Internet, these two countries must also work together in combating cyber crime, Donilon said.
“We have worked hard to build a constructive bilateral relationship that allows us to engage forthrightly on priority issues of concern. And the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, both dependent on the Internet, must lead the way in addressing this problem,” he said.