WASHINGTON—A senior White House adviser has called on China to cease cyber-attacks and warned that the United States would take action to protect U.S. businesses against cyberthreats.
“Beijing should take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities,” said Thomas E. Donilon, national security adviser to President Obama.
Speaking at the Asia Society in New York, March 11, Donilon said concerns in the United States about Chinese cyber-attacks and intellectual property theft had increased, not only in government agencies but also in the private sector.
“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,” he said in a written statement.
“We will take action to protect our economy against cyberthreats,” he warned.
Donilon demanded Beijing address “cyber-enabled theft” in three ways specifically: to publicly acknowledge the “urgency and scope” of the problem; to make a commitment to stop the hackers; and to cooperate in establishing international standards for cyberspace.
“The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country,” Donilon said of the attacks.
Donilon’s demands were the strongest and most specific to come from the Obama administration on Chinese cyber-attacks. The stronger language reflects increasing pressure from a concerned U.S. business community, which has endured cyber-attacks from China for a number of years.
Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, placed cyber-attacks as superior to terrorist threats as a major security concern.
While the intelligence community believed chances of an attack on critical infrastructure in the United States was presently remote, Clapper said the cyberlandscape was developing at such a rapid rate that future security was hard to predict.
“In some cases, the world is applying digital technologies faster than our ability to understand the security implications and mitigate potential risks,” he said in a statement.
Cyber-attacks are estimated to have cost U.S. businesses hundreds of millions of dollars. A study of 56 U.S. organizations found that in 2011, cybercrime had cost up to $46 million for some companies. The study, conducted by security firm the Ponemon Institute, said in that year that over 100 successful cyber-attacks were occurring every week among those companies.
Cybersecurity analysts have identified China as the primary source of cyber-attacks against the United States.
At an Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) conference in Washington, D.C., last year, a number of local businessmen working in the defense industry in Virginia said they felt financial pressure to manufacture in China but security was a concern.
“We are very worried about it,” said one of the businessmen who preferred not to have his company and name published.
John McClurg, co-host at the OSAC event and chief security officer of Dell’s Global Security Organization, said cybersecurity was an issue in China but the scent of profit was too great for many U.S. companies to pass up.
McClurg said China’s approach to business differed from America’s in terms of intensity and values. In China “business is war and you only get in war to win,” he told The Epoch Times at the event.
U.S. companies must abide by rules and regulations but in China there are few restrictions.
“They [Chinese] say we are glad we are not punching under the same rules as you [Americans] have because we would not have the powers that we do,” he said.
McClurg said that while Chinese people may work for different companies, it is understood and written into law that they ultimately work for the state.
“The 1993 state security law basically recruits the entire population in a way to be a participant in any matter deemed an economic security matter,” he said.
Regarding the extent Chinese businesses will go to in order to win, McClurg offered a warning to U.S. companies hoping to compete.
“Underestimate them at your own risk,” he said.
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