Russia, China Agree Not to Hack Each Other -- What It Means for U.S.


NEW YORK (The Street) - In a strange, albeit hardly unprecedented, move, China and Russia have signed an official agreement not to hack each other.

According to the 12-page agreement (written in Russian), along with text posted on the Russian government's website, the two countries have also agreed to jointly work against technology that would "destabilize the internal political and socio economic atmosphere," "disturb public order," or "interfere with the internal affairs of the state."

What does this mean for global cyber-conflicts in the future?

Not much, at least directly, according to James Lewis, the Director and Senior Fellow of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington D.C.-based think tank. "The Chinese and Russians created the Pact to annoy the Americans. It doesn't have much meaning other than that," he said. "They won't stop spying on each other. It's a symbolic and political agreement, not operational."

Adam Segal, the Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, concurs that the agreement is "not likely to have a huge impact on the U.S. There will be real questions about whether the two sides implement what they have signed. Symbolically [it's] a poke at Washington."

Although this new agreement is mostly a paper tiger, experts agree that it will likely increase tensions between the U.S. and China -- particularly, over trade and internet access. These conflicts could encompass everything from banning the use of Western technology and the development of different software, to restricting the kinds of development that take place.

According to Richard Bejtlich, the Chief Security Strategist at FireEye (FEYE) a cyber security consulting and solutions company, as well as non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, "The 'no hack Pact' is another sign that countries like Russia and China are less likely to rely on American, and more broadly, Western information technologies." 

From a market development perspective, this development is not promising. As Bejtlich said, "They are each pursuing indigenous IT projects, including software and hardware, which will reduce market opportunities for Western companies."

That said, most experts also agree that the new agreement is unlikely to create a new 'cyber Cold War.' According to Lewis, "They [China and Russia] won't coordinate actions against the U.S. It's just too hard and there is too much distrust."

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