Obama cyber defense plan would concentrate first on protecting trade secrets
Feb 20, 2013 (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Obama administration wants to work with U.S. trade partners and domestic law enforcement agencies to combat computer theft of trade secrets, copyrights and patents.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a White House event, is outlining steps the country can take to address computer attacks. A report issued Wednesday by the White House, "Administration Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets," calls for increased cooperation with foreign countries and diplomatic pressure on bad actors.
The administration also plans to:
--Set out voluntary best practices for targeted industries such as manufacturing, defense and power generation;
--Help companies identify and prevent trade secret theft;
--Expand education programs about computer security dangers.
The Department of Defense would collect, analyze and report cyberthreat information about defense industries and key industries.
"We will continue to act vigorously to combat the theft of U.S. trade secrets that could be used by foreign companies or foreign governments to gain an unfair economic edge," the report says.
Computer security experts told the Tribune-Review that the Obama administration must do even more to outline sanctions and retaliation for computer attackers.
Potential deterrents should include not only trade sanctions but also offensive cyber attacks and even the threat of military response, Paul Kaminski, a member of President Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board, told the Trib. Just as in the Cold War, potential attackers must know there will be consequences -- when they attempt to break into or destroy computer systems.
"You need to have several arrows in your quiver," Kaminski said. "As a nation we don't want to depend only on the cyber tools we have. We want to depend on all the responses we have."
The White House event featuring Holder with panels of administration officials and corporate representatives -- including Victoria A. Espinel, the U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator, and executives from General Electric, American Superconductor and the Information Technology Industry Council -- comes amid fresh accusations of widespread computer hacking by the Chinese military.
Mandiant, a private computer security company in Alexandria, Va., has identified a "long-running and extensive cyber espionage campaign" emanating in China and likely with government support.
The Chinese government has denied sponsoring computer attacks, saying it prohibits them and has done what it can to combat such activities in accordance with Chinese laws. Chinese officials say Mandiant and the U.S. have no physical evidence that computer attacks have come from its military and contend such talk is counterproductive.
Yuan Gao, a spokesperson at the Chinese embassy, told the Tribune-Review that "China would like to work with the U.S." to combat such attacks.
Because China has been accused of sponsoring attacks on companies to steal trade secrets, the United States might respond with trade sanctions against companies that are benefitting from stolen intellectual property, said Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founding chief technology officer of CrowdStrike, a security technology company in Irvine, Calif. U.S. companies also could be encouraged to file civil actions against the attackers, he added.
The United States' response to Iran, which has been blamed for mounting disruptive attacks, should be different, Alperovitch said. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, told the Trib last week that he suspects Iran launched recent so-called denial of service attacks against PNC and other U.S. banks, prevent customers from accessing online accounts.
Dealing with a country with the size and capability of China, the United States must not over-react, Alperovitch said. Computer spying has not killed anyone or destroyed property, he said.
"The thing we need to do the most is make sure it doesn't get out of hand," Alperovitch said. "Our relationship with China is multi-faceted and there's a lot of danger that this could escalate into something else."
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