Treasury secretary emphasizes cybersecurity at U.S.-China talks

(From left) Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice Premier Wang Yang and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew met at the U. S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue this week. (State Department/Flickr)

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Cybersecurity is a keystone in the effort to fortify global financial architecture, according to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

In his opening remarks at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue Tuesday morning, Lew stressed defense against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats as a critical responsibility for the two nations going forward.

“We have a shared interest and a joint responsibility to pursue policies that support the global economy as well as uphold and continue to improve the global economic and financial architecture,” he said. “That includes responsibilities to abide by certain standards of behavior within cyberspace.”

This warning comes on the heels of the devastating Office of Personnel Management hack last week, which government officials admit may have compromised the personal data of millions of federal employees. Chinese hackers have been blamed for the attack.

The OPM incident is only the latest in a string of high-profile cybersecurity incidents over the past year. These include a catastrophic hack of Sony’s computer systems last November; the phishing hack of sensitive Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in December; and the recent discovery of the advanced persistent threat virus Duqu 2.0 on the servers of hotels that hosted the P5+1 talks to negotiate Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Many of these attacks have been tentatively traced to government sponsors, a threat that Lew cited as a top priority.

Experts have speculated that North Korean hackers, motivated by political controversy surrounding the film “The Interview,” were responsible for the Sony email leak, and anti-malware specialists suggest that Duqu 2.0 is the product of Israeli cyber agents. The incidents, which garnered global attention, highlight cyberspace’s increasing role as a theater of espionage.

“We remain deeply concerned about government-sponsored cyber theft from companies and commercial sectors,” Lew said. “The United States and China have a shared interest in ensuring that the Internet continues to drive growth and prosperity worldwide.”

This week’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which marks the seventh year of the bilateral talks, will bring together senior officials from both governments. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to host discussions.

According to a senior State Department official in a press briefing Tuesday morning, the talks will work to dispel building tension around China’s maritime annexation of the South China Sea, as well as address the role Chinese may have played in the OPM hacks.

“These kinds of very high-level engagements allow us to really hit those areas of difference that we have ongoing disagreements in,” the official said. “And so the talks are all the more important for the need to address these issues head-on, not try to paper them over, not try to agree to disagree, but to try to actually talk about them and see if we can try to narrow the differences.”

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Agencies, Attacks & Breaches, Cybersecurity, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, identity and access management, Navy, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), privacy, Tech
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