Is U.S.-China Détente in the Air?

Groundwork for Cyber Treaties Could be Incubated at Int'l Summit
Talks among IT security experts from 40 nations meeting in New Delhi could lead to treaties on cybersecurity, including, perhaps, a cyber détente between the United States and China, Deloitte Center for Cyber Innovation's Harry Raduege says.

The forum is the two-day EastWest Institute's Third Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit, which begins Oct. 30, where Track II diplomacy - informal discussions among the 300-plus attendees on the most daunting issues facing the international community in cyberspace - could set the stage for future negotiations among nations on cybersecurity treaties, Raduege says in an interview with Information Security Media Group.

Track II diplomacy is the early negotiations about matters that aren't ready for prime-time formal talks among diplomats. "It's more of feeling out in a more informal setting ... the meetings of the minds on areas where we can work together," says Raduege, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who once headed the Defense Information Systems Agency. "It's sort of an exploratory process."

Exploring the possibilities of a cyber détente to ease mounting tension between the United States and China could be broached by representatives at the summit from both countries, Raduege says.

How tense is the cyber environment between the U.S. and China? In this past week's presidential debates, Republican nominee Mitt Romney accused the Chinese of breaching American computer systems, saying: "They're stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods." Earlier in the month, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued a report strongly suggesting China's government could be using communications wares produced by two Chinese manufacturers to spy on the U.S. government and American businesses [see House Panel: 2 Chinese Firms Pose IT Security Risks].

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in an early October speech, didn't accuse the Chinese - or the Russians, for that matter - of digital spying and pilfering secrets, but pointed out their capabilities. "It's no secret that Russia and China have advanced cyber capabilities," said Panetta, who weeks earlier met with his Chinese military counterparts [see Defense Secretary Warns of Dangers Facing U.S. from Cyberspace]. "In my visit to Beijing, I underscored the need to increase communication and transparency with each other so that we could avoid a misunderstanding or a miscalculation in cyberspace. This is in the interest of the United States, but it's also in the interest of China."

Among the topics the EastWest Institute cybersecurity summits address that could be elevated to Type I diplomacy, Raduege says, include:

  • Developing rules for governing cyber conflicts.
  • Fighting spam and combating botnets.
  • Creating a public health model for the Internet to protect users from malware.

"We're taking on some very big issues with these discussions at an exploratory or Track II-type diplomacy," Raduege says. "We feel we're producing some good insight for various governments and industry into how we can more effectively and productively work together as an international community."

After serving in the military for 35 years, Raduege joined Deloitte to head the business services company's unit that focuses on developing cybersecurity solutions for clients. In the military, Raduege worked in the areas of technology, including telecommunications, space, information and network operations.

In his last military position, he led Department of Defense netcentric operations as DISA director, planning, engineering and implementation of interoperable communications and intelligence systems serving the needs of the president, defense secretary, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commanders and the military services. In that role, he led efforts to restore communications to the Pentagon following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, upgrade presidential communications and expand the department's global information grid through a $1 billion transformational communications program.

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