It's an unspoken truth that every nation with the capability conducts cyber espionage.
There are no innocent bystanders, and the escalation in cyber activities from the UK and the US to Russia and China is now of major concern to businesses and governments.
So perhaps unexpectedly, China has been recently extending the hand of compromise. Separate cyber security deals have been agreed in the past two months with the US, UK and Germany. China has apparently transformed from untrusted cyber threat to a potential best friend.
Or is it simply a mixture of public relations and political manoeuvring? After all, the deal with the US reportedly lasted only a single day.
UK prime minister David Cameron and Chinese president Xi Jinping came to an agreement in October to curb online theft of intellectual property, trade secrets or confidential business information with "the intention of providing competitive advantage".
The deal was not legally binding, but UK and Chinese officials agreed to establish a "high-level security dialogue" to discuss problems including hacking, illegal immigration and organised crime.
A Foreign Office spokesperson told V3 following the deal: "This agreement is a clear statement of support for increased security in cyber space, improved protection of intellectual property rights and more effective coordination to combat cybercrime."
The news came after a similarly worded agreement with China and the Obama administration and a cyber truce with Germany set up to protect small to medium businesses that cannot afford the rising cost of cyber attacks.
Yet despite the warm words a "great deal of scepticism" surrounds these arrangements, according to Calum Jeffray, researcher for national security and resilience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
"It could well be simply political rhetoric. After all, there is little that can be done to actually prove a state is behind an attack, and countries could hide behind the agreement," he told V3.
"It also does little to stop actions by non-state actors, which is obviously especially important in relation to economic espionage."
Meanwhile Richard Turner, EMEA president at security firm FireEye, told V3 he saw the deal as little more than a 'PR stunt' that would do little to really curb the problem.
"I find it very hard to believe that the activities will change as a result of what feels like more of a PR stunt than anything else," Turner said.
"Everything tends to point to more and more nations building or enhancing their capability in this area because we are in such a connected world and so much information is electronic and online.
However, Jeffray did admit it was at least a positive that the issue was on the political agenda.
"It [the deal] is a necessary first step to increased cooperation, and if it is political signalling at least it is a step in the right direction."
The need for such a 'cyber peace treaty' is clear. A 2014 study found that China remained one of the worst culprits in terms of hacking large organisations in the UK.
The report from Oxford Economics entitled Cyberattacks: Effects on UK Companies July 2014 (PDF) included a case study of one large UK-based multinational which claimed that 95 percent of the cyber attacks against its systems originated in China.
And it just so happens that China continues to be classified as a threat from the perspective of UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
"Espionage, including cyber espionage, by foreign states is still a significant problem. Despite the end of the Cold War, at least 20 foreign intelligence services are still actively operating against UK interests. Russian and Chinese intelligence activities are of greatest concern," MI5 states openly on its website.
The Home Office said when asked by V3 whether this threat level has changed since the so-called cyber deal that it was "not able to offer a running commentary" on threat levels and would not comment "out of a responsibility to intelligence services".
China vs. the rest of the world
Yet China is not the only cyber threat that now exists to the UK, as the government knows well.
"We know that there are several established, capable states seeking to exploit computers and communications networks to gather intelligence and intellectual property from government, military, industrial and economic targets," a UK government spokesperson told V3.
"It must be remembered that it is not just states that pose potential risks to the UK. Organised criminals, terrorists and ‘hacktivists' are also responsible for attacking public and private computer systems to exploit cyber space to their own ends.
"But the UK takes cyber threats very seriously and will take the necessary steps to protect our networks."
Indeed, one recent study by the Office for National Statistics revealed that cybercrime had overtaken traditional offences for the first time.
Turner from FireEye agreed that China cannot be seen as the only nation engaging in such activities, when it is well known other nations, includiing the UK, are at it as well.
"[China] is widely reported as being one of the most prolific when it comes to targeting enterprises and industry rather than governments. But let's not ignore the fact that the UK must conduct cyber espionage campaigns in China for the simple reason that it's where the information is," he said.
"Honestly, I don't think this is a China vs. rest of the world thing. They are not the only nation state that conducts cyber activity."
Whether or nations will look to forge similar deals to those struck by China, though, remains to be seen.
The nuclear investment
While China may not be the only nation conducting cyber activities, the concern around their actions was definitely heightened by the news it would be making over £30bn of investment into the UK including £6bn deal to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C in Somerset.
The UK government insists that 25,000 jobs will be created and enough energy to power six million homes. Following the signing of the deal, energy secretary Amber Rudd proclaimed: "The UK is open for business and this is a good deal for everyone."
But the news quickly led to security concerns, largely concerning how much influence China's spy agencies will have on the power plants and whether back doors will be installed into nuclear software and how much access China will have to the UK's national infrastructure.
Similar concerns have been raised before over China's involvement in critical infrastruture, notably telecoms networks.
Since the nuclear deal was announced officials at GCHQ have since implied that they will keep a close eye on the development of the plan and the UK government has since played down any nuclear security concerns.
"The UK has a strong relationship with China on cyber issues that touches topics as broad as smart cities, future technologies, protecting businesses and cyber exports," a spokesperson told V3.
"We have set out that, when it comes to the UK's infrastructure, we have clear and robust systems in place."
FireEye's Turner said that while the risk here was real, in some regard there is little that can be done to stop it posing a threat.
"From a cyber point of view we have to accept that if somebody wants to get in and cause physical harm through a cyber attack they probably can. We saw that with Stuxnet, so whether it's a nuclear reactor or a bank those organisations need to take steps to make sure they are resilient," he told V3.
Ultimately it appears Chinese investment in the UK is not going to stop.
Matthew Cottee, research associate in the non-proliferation and disarmament programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, highlighted before the deal was finalised that China already owns a significant chunk of UK infrastructure.
"The state-owned China Investment Corporation has an approximate 10 percent share in Heathrow Airport and Thames Water. Private Chinese investors, meanwhile, own some of Britain's largest ports, nearly one third of the UK passenger train fleet and majority shares in other water and power utilities," he wrote.
Furthermore, China has invested millions in the property, finance and food and beverage sectors, according to the BBC.
So while Chinese delegates continue to travel the world making cyber peace accords with other powerful nations, the country's true intentions remain unclear. Critics will continue to doubt the legitimacy of the agreements, but many others, clearly desperate for a cybercrime solution, will welcome any chance of progress.
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