Obama looks to avoid cyber arms race

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in September 2015 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, shown here in 2015, discussed cybersecurity concerns at the recent G-20 Summit in China. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

President Barack Obama said on Sept. 5 that he does not want a "wild, wild West" scenario when it comes to cyber matters between nations, and urged other countries, especially Russia, to follow the cyber norms that are in place.

"We're going to have enough problems in the cyberspace with non-state actors who are engaging in theft and using the Internet for all kinds of illicit practices, and protecting our critical infrastructure, and making sure that our financial systems are sound," he said after the G-20 Summit in China. "And what we cannot do is have a situation in which suddenly ... countries that have significant cyber capacity start engaging in competition -- unhealthy competition or conflict through these means when, I think, wisely we've put in place some norms when it comes to using other weapons."

Russia has been fingered by experts as the probable source of hacks of the Democratic National Committee and other political targets. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to deflect speculation on Russian involvement, but he did note that he welcomed the public release of the DNC emails.

"I don't know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this," Putin told Bloomberg News in an interview.  

"We did talk about cybersecurity, generally," Obama said of his "blunt" meeting with Putin during the summit. "I'm not going to comment on specific investigations that are still live and active.  But I will tell you that we've had problems with cyber intrusions from Russia in the past, from other countries in the past.  And, look, we're moving into a new era here where a number of countries have significant capacities."

"Frankly," Obama continued, "we've got more capacity than anybody both offensively and defensively.  But our goal is not to suddenly, in the cyber arena, duplicate a cycle of escalation that we saw when it comes to other arms races in the past, but rather to start instituting some norms so that everybody is acting responsibly."

U.S. officials are currently investigating whether there is evidence that Russia is attempting to influence or manipulate the U.S. election through the release of hacked information. Intelligence officials including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have said that China and Russia continue to "have the most sophisticated cyber programs," and are the countries the U.S. is watching most warily.  

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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