The US and Chinese governments are reportedly locked in discussions to develop the world's first cyber peace deal, on the understanding that neither nation will be the first to launch a cyber attack on critical infrastructure.
According to The New York Times, the deal would include rules against the hacking of critical institutions such as power stations, banking systems, telecommunications networks and hospitals.
However it remains unclear if the deal will extend to government breaches and cyber espionage, which both nations conduct regularly.
The negotiations are taking place as Chinese president Xi Jinping is in the US from 22 September to 28 September for his first state visit. Yet they come as tensions are at an all-time high following numerous cyber attacks on US institutions.
For example in July, US officials revealed that a cyber breach at the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) resulted in the loss of 21.5 million federal records. Furthermore, the same hacking group, said to originate in China, allegedly compromised the database of US healthcare insurance firm Anthem.
Following these incidents, president Barack Obama warned the Chinese government that attacks on US computer networks are "not acceptable" and said that his administration will treat cyber attacks as a "core national security threat".
"We've made very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they're engaging in that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable," he said at the time.
"And we can choose to make this an area of competition, which I guarantee we'll win if we have to, or alternatively we can come to an agreement where we say this isn't helping anyway, let's try to have some basic rules of the road in terms of how we operate."
However, according to The New York Times, some officials involved in the new cyber deal have questioned the validity of the process, claiming that the negotiation may not result in a "specific, detailed mention" of proper regulation.
Meanwhile, a number of high-level executives have claimed that Chinese intrusions against US institutions have declined in the months prior to the state visit.
"The pace of new breaches feels like it's tempering...In my gut, I feel like the Chinese and the US over the next couple of years are going to figure this out," Kevin Mandia, founder of security firm Mandiant, told Reuters.
During the Chinese state visit Chinese minister Lu Wei, director of the Central Leading Group for Internet Security, is holding a technology conference in Seattle featuring major firms such as Facebook, Apple, IBM and Uber.
Last week, it was revealed that China is attempting to introduce a PRISM-like pledge of compliance to all US firms operating in the Chinese markets. This has led to fears that user data and intellectual property will be at risk from potential intelligence gathering.
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