Cybersecurity becoming U.S. diplomatic priority

Thu Jun 2, 2011 1:16pm EDT
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By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Cyber security is now a diplomatic priority for the United States with Washington looking to build relationships to tackle information theft and reduce the risk of conflict, a senior official said.

State Department coordinator for cyber issues, Christopher Painter, said the United States faced a host of potential threats in cyberspace from freelance hackers to militants and potentially rival states. Diplomacy and policy was only just beginning to catch up with technology, he said.

"It is clear that cyber security is now a policy imperative," he told Reuters late on Wednesday on the sidelines of a conference by the East-West Institute, a think tank.

"It goes across governance issues, economic issues, military issues. The best course of action is to engage with countries and have a free and frank discussion. We're just at the beginning of this."

Painter, appointed in April after working as senior director for cyber security policy at the White House, would not discuss recent security breaches nor say who he thought might be responsible. But it was clear issues needed to be addressed, he said.

Internet company Google said on Thursday suspected Chinese hackers had tried to steal the passwords of hundreds of Google email users including senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists.

Chinese officials denied any government connection, saying that China was also a victim of hacking.