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Disagreements on cyber risk East-West "Cold War"

(Reuters) - With worries growing over computer hacking, data theft and the risk of digital attacks destroying essential systems, western states and their allies are co-operating closer than ever on cyber security.

But as they do so, the gulf between them and China and Russia -- blamed for many recent hacks and with a very different and much more authoritarian view over the future of the Internet -- grows ever wider.

Last week, Chinese officials turned down invitations to a privately-run conference of military and civilian experts on cyber security in London, telling organizers Defense IQ they would not attend due to a "low tide" in relations with the U.S., particularly its military. A senior Russian official also pulled out at the last moment, citing a failure to obtain a UK Visa in time -- although other attendees suspected that might simply have been an excuse.

Western officials talk down such snubs. But they admit progress towards international agreement on "norms of behavior" in cyberspace remains a distant dream.

"It is worrying," says John Bassett, a former senior official at British signals intelligence agency GCHQ and now senior fellow at London's Royal United Services Institute. "If anything, in the last year the differences have become more apparent and there seems to have been little success in tackling them. There is a risk it could end up damaging the wider relationship." More...

02-05-2012 10:58