US State Department launches cyber and digital policy strategy

Part of the race with Beijing to set standards and advance norms

RSAC The US State Department's latest cybersecurity strategy will not be wildly different from current stances, but offers an alternative path to those presented by the country's adversaries.

"Today's revolutions in technology are at the heart of our competition with geopolitical rivals. They pose a real test to our security," declared Anthony Blinken at the RSA Conference in San Francisco on Monday.

The US secretary of state described the United States International Cyberspace and Digital Policy Strategy as treating digital solidarity as the country's "north star."

The four areas of action in the plan include promoting "an open, inclusive, secure, and resilient digital ecosystem," aligning with international partners for "rights-respecting" digital and data governance, building coalitions that will counter threats to cyberspace and critical infrastructure, and collaborating to build out digital and cyber capacity, including that which can combat cyber threats.

In his speech at RSA, Blinken mentions China twice – once in a call to strengthen supply chains, citing China's dominance in production of critical minerals, and again to reference attacks from Beijing on US critical infrastructure.

The latter earned China the label of "broad and unrelenting threat" from FBI director Christopher Wray last month.

Blinken warned on Monday against "technologies with clear connections to military capabilities and human rights abuses," disruptions to undersea cables, and mass surveillance that uses DNA, facial, or voice recognition technology – all of which China is known to engage in.

"We've learned from the 5G experience that we cannot be complacent and let strategic competitors dominate the technologies that form the backbone of the global economy and that determine how and where information flows," said Blinken without naming Huawei or the Federal Communications Commission's expensive rip-and-replace program.

Blinken also name-checked Iran once for cyber attacks against Albania and Russia for cyberattacks related to its "war of aggression" in Ukraine.

Top cyber diplomat Nate Fick told news outlets that the strategy offers an "affirmative vision" for cyberspace in the face of authoritarian states and censorship.

"Our ability to design, to develop, to deploy technologies will determine our capacity to shape the tech future. And naturally, operating from a position of strength better positions us to set standards and advance norms around the world," said Blinken.

He added that the US advantage comes not just from domestic strength, but solidarity with "the majority of the world." ®

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