The US and China are negotiating what could be first cyberspace arms control agreement ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington this week, the New York Times reports.
The two nations would agree not to use cyber weapons to attack each other’s infrastructure during peacetime, officials involved in the talks told the newspaper.
Such an agreement would be the first of its kind and would be designed to prevent cyber-attacks against power plants, banking systems, mobile telephone networks and hospitals.
However, it would not cover attacks such as industrial espionage or the alleged Chinese hacking into US government computer systems that have damaged relations between Washington and Beijing ahead of Xi visit.
According to an AP report, the latest survey of US attitudes toward China by the Pew Research Center shows that 54% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Beijing, continuing a rising trend dating back to 2010.
Among their main concerns are hacking attacks originating from China that American officials say are approaching epidemic levels, including the theft of millions of US federal personnel records that American lawmakers have said was engineered by Beijing.
Yet, despite US warnings of legal action, China has shown no serious sign of acting on Washington’s concerns, preferring to portray itself as a victim of hacking, the survey says.
Meanwhile, experts say major intrusions by Chinese hackers of US companies’ computer systems appear to have slowed in recent months ahead of Xi’s visit.
Three senior executives at private-sector firms in the field told Reuters they had noticed a downtick in hacking activity.
“The pace of new breaches feels like it’s tempering,” said Kevin Mandia, founder of Mandiant, a prominent company that investigates sophisticated corporate breaches.
Mandia has probed major corporate breaches, including those at Sony Pictures Entertainment (6758.T), Target (TGT.N) and healthcare insurers. Experts have connected some of these to a breach of classified background investigations at the US Office of Personnel Management, which was traced to China.
Government-supported hackers in China may have backed off recently as Chinese and US officials began negotiating in earnest over cyber security ahead of the Obama-Xi summit.
“In my gut, I feel like the Chinese and the US over the next couple of years are going to figure this out,” said Mandia.