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International relations

US to go on cyber offense against state actors

Washington warns Russia, China and North Korea of consequences of attacks

U.S. President Donald Trump has instructed officials to be vigilant against attacks on the upcoming elections.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- The U.S. will take cybersecurity to a new level, moving beyond just defending itself from intrusions to engaging in offensive cyber activity against state actors, a senior official said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that there must be "costs and consequences" for cyberattacks on the U.S. by state actors. Those measures include "sanctions, diplomatic activity or offensive cyber activity by the U.S., depending on the nature of the attacks," Sullivan said.

Sullivan's statement comes two days after U.S. President Donald Trump accused China of attempting to interfere in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections in November, during a Security Council meeting. "We have evidence ... it didn't come out of nowhere," the president said later that day at a press conference.

The U.S. on Friday convened a ministerial meeting on cybersecurity with like-minded nations. Officials from Australia, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, the U.K. and the European Union attended.

Sullivan told reporters that the ministers discussed the need to define the norms and boundaries that state actors cannot cross and a set of consequences for those that do.

"It is not just Russia. It is not just China. It's other countries as well," Sullivan said of the state actors that engage in cyberattacks. "It could be North Korea or Iran. We are working hard to make our cyber domain more secure and more resilient but also working to deter that type of behavior by a range of responses, which would include offensive cyber activity by the United States."

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