SHARING AMERICA'S TECH NEWS FROM THE VALLEY TO THE ALLEY
Internet securityCybercrime, hacking and other security coverage.
When President Barack Obama begins two days of meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Southern California on Friday, in part to discuss China’s alleged computer thefts of some of this nation’s most sensitive secrets, many Silicon Valley businesses will be monitoring the talks with intense interest.
This area is widely considered a key battleground in the country’s war on cybercrime, and while skeptical of the meeting’s outcome, many Silicon Valley executives hope Obama will win concessions from Xi to help halt the attacks. In recent years, tech companies here have been targeted by hackers, and reports that some of the computerized break-ins have been directed by Chinese authorities has corporate officials
A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files (KACPER PEMPEL)throughout Silicon Valley worried.
“They are freaking out,” said Patrick Peterson, CEO of Palo Alto-based Agari, one of the legions of security companies in the region that offer software and other products to deter hackers. “It’s a flaming-hot issue, which has the industry extremely concerned all the way up to the board level.”
After landing at Moffett Field on Thursday evening for a Bay Area visit, Obama will head to Rancho Mirage where the meetings with Xi are likely to cover a variety of topics, ranging from economic issues to the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons. But White House officials say cybersecurity will be a major focus, and they expect the two nations to form a working group to begin wrestling with the problem in detail in July.
Hackers reportedly operating out of China are a growing concern in Silicon Valley, with Google (GOOG) and Adobe Systems (ADBE) among the businesses that say they’ve been targeted. A new book by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt calls China the “most sophisticated and prolific” cyberthief threatening foreign companies.
Others, including U.S. officials, have expressed similar concerns.
The Washington Post reported in May that a confidential report for the Pentagon determined Chinese hackers had obtained designs for more than two dozen of this country’s major weapon systems. And in February, a prominent security firm reported finding extensive evidence that a Chinese military unit in Shanghai had launched cyberattacks against more than 140 companies, most of them in the U.S.
During a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, a White House official who spoke on condition he not be identified was vague about how much pressure Obama might put on Xi. But he added, “We believe that all nations need to abide by international norms and firm, clear rules for the road as it relates to cybersecurity. … If there are cyberthreats emerging from within another country that pose a risk to U.S. businesses, we’re going to raise that.”
Several Silicon Valley executives who specialize in cybersecurity said they hope the meetings go beyond chitchat and that Obama wrings ironclad promises from Xi to stop China-based hackers from targeting U.S. firms. The Alliance for American Manufacturing agreed, firing off a letter to the White House this week that declared, “Dialogue and
In this May 31, 2013 photo, the building housing Unit 61398 of the People s Liberation Army, center top, is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, China. The U.S. government has stepped up efforts to thwart cyber-attacks, but those efforts are mainly focused at protecting its own secrets, especially regarding military operations and technologies. (AP Photo) traditional forms of engagement clearly are not working.”
But others say Obama may find Xi less than receptive, because China claims it also is a victim of cyberattacks, some coming from the U.S.
On Wednesday, Reuters quoted Huang Chengqing, director of a Chinese computer emergency response center, as saying, “We have mountains of data, if we wanted to accuse the U.S., but it’s not helpful in solving the problem.”
Although local experts said it was a good sign the two leaders were getting together to hash out such issues, several doubted China would do much to deter hackers because it has consistently denied responsibility for the attacks.
“In a summit like this, I don’t think there is going to be any admission of wrongdoing,” said Sathvik Krishnamurthy, CEO of Voltage Security in Cupertino. “It’s very frustrating.”
He added that one of the best ways to solve the cyberthreat would be to pass uniform legislation that, among other things, required companies to encrypt any sensitive customer and personal data that they maintain.
Whatever takes place at this week’s meetings, companies here and elsewhere will largely be on their own when it comes to protecting their assets, added Gary Steele, CEO of Sunnyvale security firm Proofpoint.
“Obama must take a strong position with the Chinese leader to stop these attacks,” he said. But, “at the same time, the U.S. government and Silicon Valley companies must build modern defenses, assuming these requests are ignored once again.”
Yet for now, many if not most businesses remain sitting ducks because they do so little to block computer intruders, said Brian Laing, a vice president with Santa Clara security firm AhnLab.
“This is an arms race,” he said of the ongoing battle to keep hackers at bay. “There are always new ways to get in, always new vulnerabilities.”
Thank you. TiA.