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China ditches 2015 cybersecurity pact with US

President of China Xi Jinping. (Kremlin/Released)
February 20, 2019

China is not playing nice when it comes to cybersecurity.

Analysts have determined that China has thrown out a mutual cybersecurity agreement made with the U.S. in 2015.

The agreement was made between Chinese President Xi Jinping and former President Barack Obama in 2015 as a means of reducing cyberattacks and espionage, but now overwhelming evidence has shown that China abandoned the deal and reversed its behavior, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

The finding was made by cybersecurity analysts at Crowdstrike

“By 2017 they started coming back and throughout 2018 they were back in full force,” said Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at Crowdstrike. “They have been very active and we expect to see that continue.”

In the 2015 agreement, both nations agreed that they would not “conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors,” according to a White House press release at the time.

Former President Obama also said that China’s espionage was an “act of aggression that has to stop,” and said his administration was preparing “countervailing actions in order to get their attention.”

China’s cyber activities slowed down after the agreement was made, but have ramped back up in recent years.

Crowdstrike found that China’s cyber activity efforts have focused on industries such as technology, manufacturing and hospitality.

At the same time, Chinese hackers have also increased their efforts in gathering trade secrets and sensitive military data from both contractors and companies, nine intelligence sources told the New York Times, which unveiled its report Monday.

Not only has China increased the frequency of its attacks, the attacks have also become harder to detect.

Experts say these increased attacks are sparked by China’s five-year economic plan for the nation to become a leader in artificial intelligence, among other innovations.

“Some of the recent intelligence collection has been for military purposes or preparing for some future cyber conflict, but a lot of the recent theft is driven by the demands of the five-year plan and other technology strategies,” said Adam Segal, director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ cyberspace program.

China has been so fueled by its quest for global dominance in cyberspace that it has never drawn a line between intelligence gathering and straight-up theft.

Numerous Chinese nationals – including its government’s own intelligence agents – have been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for their role in ongoing cyberattacks on U.S. companies and entities.

In September, the Trump Administration released a Cyber Strategy for the first time in 15 years, which identified key threats and described an aggressive response to such threats. It also named China as one of the greatest threats to U.S. cybersecurity.