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Cyber safety talks urged

By Cao Yin in Beijing and Chen Weihua in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2015-08-04 10:54

Experts call US plan to damage firewall 'dangerous'

The best way to solve cyber-security problems between China and the United States is through communication and negotiation, instead of engaging in a war of words and threats, Chinese Internet specialists said on Monday.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the US government had studied several plans to retaliate against those suspected of stealing the personal information of about 20 million US citizens, such as damaging the attackers' network firewall.

Although the US has not given a clear reply on which country it believes was the online attacker, the officials involved in the investigation, including James Clapper, the US national intelligence director, said that the biggest suspect is China, according to The Times.

The report quickly stirred up a debate between the two nations and attracted the attention of experts in the online security industry.

Shen Yi, deputy director of the Internet governance research center at Fudan University, said that unreasonable accusations or online battles will not solve the problem. The reported plan to damage the attackers' firewall means the US aims to destroy China's network infrastructure, "which is dangerous and serious."

"The two countries should first figure out whether the attack was from China, and then sit down for communication instead of arguments," Shen said. Guessing who is responsible will aggravate the security problem between the nations and may cause the US to exercise bad judgment, Shen said.

Zuo Xiaodong, vice-president of the China Information Security Research Institute, said that for the US to make accusations without evidence was irresponsible.

"The US ignored communication channels that the two countries built to solve security problems, which will make future security cases more serious and lead the two sides into a cold war in cyberspace," Zuo said.

Zuo said that China suffers online threats from around the world.

Richard Bush, a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center of the Brookings Institution, said there may be opportunities in the cyber area for the two countries to deal with during President Xi Jinping's state visit to the US in September.

Bush said the two countries tend to agree at the top that certain aspects of the cyber domain are off limits. "Critical infrastructure seems to be one, where there is a mutual interest that neither side will attack the other. Can that sort of thing be pursued in a way that increases mutual confidence and allows for proper monitoring?" he said in a Brookings talk last Wednesday.

In a letter published in the Washington Post last Thursday, Zhu Haiquan, spokesman of the Chinese embassy in Washington, repeated the stance that the Chinese government firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations.

Zhu said cyber attacks across borders are very complex and hard to trace.

Therefore, combating such activities requires closer international cooperation and formulating international rules and norms to govern behavior in cyberspace.

"This is where the interests of China and the United States align. We can accomplish much more by working together than apart," he said.

Many Chinese have felt that the revelations made by Edward Snowden, a US National Security Agency contractor, have clearly shown that the US has been using its mighty cyber capability to penetrate the networks of governments, universities and corporations.

"Making unfounded accusations and resorting to megaphone diplomacy is counterproductive. And there is no place in this solution for double standards," Zhu said.

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