The United States has had to deal with a series of embarassing cyber attack in the past few months, chief among them is the attack on the Office Personnel Management, which surely supplied the foreign spies with a hidden tree of information about government employees. Some in the U.S. suspect this attack had connections to China, though the latter quickly denied any connected and states that it was itself under a cyber attack.
And yet, following recent cyber attacks, it seems that the United States is considering putting sanctions on companies and individuals in Russia and China due to attacks allegedly connected to the two countries. The spokesman for the Chinese embassy replied, stating that “The Chinese government staunchly upholds cyber security, firmly opposes and combats all forms of cyber attacks in accordance with law”. According to him, China is interested in an enchanced dialogue and cooperation with the United States and foundless accusations are not helping to solve the problem.
It should be noted that the sanctions the United States is considering are not towards the hackers suspected of breaking in the OPM database, but towards citizens and foreign companies who the U.S. is accusing of being responsible of cyber attacks against ocmmercial American companies.
If the United States does decide to procceed with these sanctions, it will be the first use of the presidential order signed by president Obama last April, which orders to take severe measures against foreign hackers accusing of attacking American computer systems. One U.S. official said that these sanctions are meant to cut off those relevant from using the United States’ financial system, which could, obviously, be a death sentence for important business projects.
It isn’t yet clear whether the U.S. will decide to take these measures, as they can strain on the already tense relationship with Russia and China, and even more so if they are taken before the expected visit of China’s president, Xi Jinping, to the White House this month.
China’s Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai, when asked on whether such sanctions would change the timetable for Xi’s visit this month, said he hoped that “nobody will do anything so nonconstructive,” and that he hoped “the U.S. side will make the smart choice”. Ambassador Cui further stated that both the U.S. and China are facing cyberattacks, but that “China, as a developing nation, is much more a victim” of them, and added that “instead of moving towards conflict and confrontation, the U.S. and China have every reason to conduct more communications and cooperation in this regard.”