United States president Barack Obama says the nation he leads has the world's foremost digital arsenal.
Speaking at a press conference after meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in China, Obama said “We have had problems with cyber intrusions from Russia in the past, from other countries in the past.”
He went on to say “we are moving into a new area where a number of countries have significant capacities. And frankly we have more capacity than any other country, both offensively and defensively.” Which rather contradicts recent analysis of the USA's zero-day trove as rather small. Or means other nations have tiny zero-day hoards.
Back to Obama's speech, which continued "But our goal is not, in the cyber arena, to suddenly duplicate a cycle of escalation that we saw when it comes to other arms races in the past,” Obama added. Instead, he hopes “to start instituting some norms so that everyone is acting responsibly.”
He favours that approach because “We are going to have enough problems in cyberspace with non-state actors who are engaging in theft and using the internet for all sorts of illicit practices.” The president therefore said “protecting our critical infrastructure and making sure that our financial systems are sound” are going to be priorities.
“What we cannot do is have a situation in which this becomes the wild, wild west where countries that have significant cyber capacity start engaging in competition, unhealthy competition or conflict, through these means, when wisely we put in place some norms when it comes to using other weapons.”
Obama said such norms have “been a topic of convo with president Putin as it has been with other countries,” then concluded by saying “We have started to get some willingness with a lot of countries around the world to adopt these norms but we have got to make sure we are observing them.”
One example of Obama's hoped for world cyber order could be the US/China no hack pact signed in 2015, but quickly called into question. Other no hack pacts cover Germany and China, China and the UK and the USA and Australia.
Critics say such pacts look great on paper, but exempt businesses and therefore lack teeth because China operates a great many state-owned enterprises with security functions. The USA even runs a venture capital company, In-Q-Tel, established by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) specifically to to find useful tech for the intelligence community.
Absent any detail from Obama on the new world cyber order he's imagined, it looks like there are loopholes a-plenty allowing online operations to carry on even while pacts apply. ®