US, China to step up cyber security effort

China's Minister for Public Security Guo Shengkun being welcomed by US Attorney- General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson before their meeting on Wednesday.
China's Minister for Public Security Guo Shengkun being welcomed by US Attorney- General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson before their meeting on Wednesday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Wider cooperation seen as evidence that row over cyber intrusions being defused

WASHINGTON • American and Chinese officials have agreed to expand cooperation to crack down on cybercrime as China's state-run news agency said a hacking attack on the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was carried out by criminals there.

The two nations agreed to set guidelines for seeking assistance on cybercrime, hold a "tabletop" cybercrime exercise next year, and establish a cybercrime hot line between their two presidents, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

The next dialogue will be held in June in Beijing, it said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday pointed to the talks as evidence that the diplomatic row over cyber intrusions is beginning to smooth over. "The one thing that certainly can be pointed to as at least incremental progress is that Chinese officials did follow through on our joint commitment to pursue a cyber security dialogue," he said.

The talks were a follow-up to a summit between US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who announced a deal in September that their governments would not conduct economic espionage via hacking private networks of companies.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua said an investigation had determined that the hacking attack on OPM that compromised personal data on more than 20 million people was a criminal case as opposed to a government-sponsored attack. Xinhua did not give any evidence.

A handful of hackers linked to the attack were arrested in China before Mr Xi's visit, the Washington Post reported.

"I don't have a specific reaction to share with you," Mr Earnest said when asked about the report, and declined to comment on Beijing's claims that US cyber attacks have risen in China since Mr Xi's visit.

Among those at the meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday were China's Minister for Public Security Guo Shengkun and White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice. The meeting in Washington coincided with an Australian Broadcasting Corp report that China is being blamed for a cyber attack on Australia's Bureau of Meteorology. 

"The Chinese side has repeated on many occasions that the Chinese government firmly opposes and cracks down on all forms of cyber attacks," the foreign affairs ministry said in Beijing. "It is not constructive to make unfounded accusations and speculations."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'US, China to step up cyber security effort'. Print Edition | Subscribe