US and Russia to meet on cybersecurity

Senior Russian and U.S. cybersecurity officials will meet this week in Geneva to renew efforts to prevent a cyber war between the two nations, officials told CNN.

{mosads}Officials from the White House, the State Department and FBI will attend the meetings, which will focus on a review of several cybersecurity “confidence-building” agreements signed in 2013 by the two governments.

According to one official, the meetings will not be a resumption of the so-called Bilateral Presidential Commission working group, suspended in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea. Relations between the U.S. and Russia have been strained since the Kremlin invaded eastern Ukraine and began supporting pro-Russian separatists.

U.S. officials have tried to downplay the meetings.

“This meeting is not a restart of the Bilateral Presidential Commission working group, but it is in our interest to discuss cybersecurity issues with Russia, including to review the 2013 Bilateral U.S.-Russia Cyber [confidence-building measures],” said one senior U.S. official.

One of those measures includes a “hot line” between the two governments to allow officials to communicate during a cybersecurity crisis.

The meetings come just months after suspected Russian hackers shut down large portions of the Ukrainian power grid in a coordinated cyberattack that is seen as the first major blackout caused by hackers.

Current and former U.S. officials cite Russia as a specific nation-state threat when it comes to cybersecurity. Hackers from Russia, Iran and China are all probing the U.S. power grid for vulnerabilities, officials note.

National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers even acknowledged to lawmakers that China and “one or two” other countries could shut down portions of critical U.S. infrastructure using a cyberattack. Russia is believed to be on that list.

While the Ukrainian government and many security researchers believe that Russia was behind the strike on civilian infrastructure, the Obama administration has not publicly blamed Russia for the attack.


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