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String of Cyber Attacks Leaves China, West Relations Tense

String of Cyber Attacks Leaves China, West Relations Tense - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Photo: Melissa Hathaway
String of Cyber Attacks Leaves China, West Relations Tense - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Melissa Hathaway, Hathaway Global Strategies

The recent hack into the Gmail accounts of U.S. officials, journalists and human rights activists is a situation that comes with the potential threat of tainting relations between Washington and Beijing, according to experts.

China, often suspected of such cyber attacks, says it is unfairly blamed because of other countries' envy of its booming economy.

Cyber experts don't have a definitive idea of who is responsible for the hacking, but China has topped the list of suspects. Experts believe the suspected motive for the hacking was to steal classified information.

The Gmail hacking is the latest in a string of recent cyber attacks that targeted Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Sony, among others. In each of the cases, the sophisticated attacks seem to come from out of thin air.

“There is a risk of unintended escalation in cyberspace,“ Melissa Hathaway, private consultant and former senior U.S. official on cyberspace, told Reuters. “It's very easy to mask where you're coming from.“

Many countries including the U.S. and the U.K . have invested billions of dollars into cyber defense. According to cyber experts, the real issue at hand is the lack of communication between the countries on cyber attacks.

“The most important thing is to build international consensus; it's not just China we need to engage with,“ said Christopher Painter, U.S. State Department coordinator for cyber issues. “It is an important part of our agenda with every country.“

An effort being made for talks between the U.S. and China took place this week at a cybersecurity conference in London. U.S. think tank EastWest Institute hosted the event, inviting officials representing the two countries to speak in an effort to find common ground between the U.S. and China on how best to combat spam on the Internet.

President and CEO of the EastWest Institute John Edwin Mros spoke to Reuters about the lack of trust between the countries and cyber talk, but thinks better communication will happen eventually. “Some people say building trust is impossible, but it is getting better,“ he said.

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