Cybersecurity steps into the spotlight

Last month in the White House Rose Garden, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping stood side-by-side and hosted a news conference on the topic of corporate cyber attacks. In the news conference, President Obama stated that both China and the United States would refrain from cyber attacks aimed at pilfering company intellectual or trade secrets for commercial advantage. However, events following the news conference are raising questions on whether this agreement is going to be upheld.

The first of such events came the day following the announcement of the two-nation agreement. While President Xi was meeting with the executives of several American technology companies in Seattle, a hacking group who is believed to have links to the Chinese government attacked one such company looking for trade secrets. In a blog post on Monday, security services provider CrowdStrike said that it had tracked a number of attacks on American technology and pharmaceutical companies leading up to and closely following President Xi’s visit to the U.S.

Possibly even more concerning is that CrowdStrike has reported that the attacks on American companies have continued in the three weeks since Washington and Beijing signed the cybersecurity agreement. This news of further hacking attempts will surely put new pressure on the countries’ agreement, and a number of analysts already have expressed skepticism towards the agreement’s survival. President Obama stated that the U.S. would be “watching carefully” to see if the agreement led to progress and did not rule out economic sanctions against Chinese companies if the cyber attacks continue.

Seven of the recently attacked companies are firms in the fields of technology or pharmaceuticals. Attacks against such companies are usually attempts to obtain intellectual property and trade secrets. According to CrowdStrike, several of the recent attacks were the responsibility of a hacker group called Deep Panda. Deep Panda is a group that often goes after strategic national security targets, but also has hacked companies in an array on industries.

Even though the U.S. and China have this agreement, and these cyber attacks are still coming, I believe that President Obama and his advisors need to take great caution in enforcing any economic sanctions against China.

According to the United States Census Bureau, China is the United States’ second largest trading partner, creating 15.4 percent of the total trade the U.S. does on the world market. Enforcing any sort of sanctions against such a valuable partner could have serious repercussions.

Something else to keep in mind when considering sanctions against China is that they own 7.2 percent of the United States debt as of 2014. 7.2 percent of $18 trillion is $1.296 trillion. If the Chinese were to collect such a debt, that would leave the U.S. economy in ruins, further emphasizing the need to proceed with caution.

To conclude, these cyber attacks that continue to occur are no laughing matter. Both the Chinese and the Americans need to enforce their ends of the agreement over the “hackers” that are established in their respective nations. If they do not crack down domestically, much greater consequences could be on the horizon. This is a situation that shows just how much money dictates international affairs, and how dangerous the exchange of currency between world powers can be.

Jack Kelly is a freshman planning on majoring on journalism and strategic communications. Were you aware of the cybersecurity deal between China and the U.S.? Please send all comments, questions and concerns to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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