Asian Cyber Security Cooperation – A Difficult Road Ahead

Reviewed: May 20, 2015
By FinanceWeb

In Northeast Asia, cyber security issues relate to China, Japan, and South Korea and North Korea. These nations have all developed cyber warfare attack weapons and have deep concerns about cyber defense. Cyber attack weapons include viruses and disruptions of transmissions. The attack on the Sony corporation that researchers tied to North Korea was a rare public example of a cyber attack, and the response from the US was measured and involved cyber retaliation and economic sanctions. In the Asian-Pacific, there are impressive beginnings and alarming absences. Crisis management processes in many advanced countries lag behind the standards accepted in the US and Western Europe for planning and recovery.

Lack of Cooperation

Across Asia, the lack of established cyber security cooperation is remarkable and reflects the reality of deep political ad philosophical differences. South Korea and Japan are allied with the West and provide a free Internet with protected speech rights. China and North Korea do not tolerate a free Internet and do not protect private speech, but rather protect government policies at the expense of free speech. In many populous nations such as the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, there are acceptable standards for cyber security but a relative lack of implementation and preparedness.

Economic Engagement

The leading edge of cyber cooperation is in economic and trade agreements. It is an area that bridges the philosophic differences between free markets and government controlled societies. The road towards cyber security cooperation will likely involve the shared needs to protect trade and avoid economic damage from cyber attacks among valued trade partners. In trade relationships, each partner relies upon the systems of the other, and there is a shared interest in security. The growing relationships between India and China are an example. They have exhibited exceptional levels of cooperation in areas such as high-speed rail.

The Internet: Free or Controlled

The major divide, and the gap for which there is no current bridge is the issue of the free internet. In the world that has been made smaller and more intimate by instantaneous communications, there are billions of citizens who live in government-managed information environments without freedom to openly express views. Like some corporations in the US, these governments seek to manage communications and influence or eliminate information they do not favor. In the US such conduct is prohibited by law, the US enforces net neutrality. However, in relations with China, North Korea, and to lesser extents Vietnam and Myanmar, Internet freedom is a major obstacle to cooperation.

Finding Common Ground

In a recent speech in Seoul, South Korea, Secretary of State Kerry focused on the free internet, its importance to the US and the world. He emphasized that the US would not relent in its insistence for an open Internet. He pointed out areas of potential cooperation including security, controlling the costs of Internet access and expanding access around the world. The internet is an instrument to promote economic well-being and reduce need hunger and poverty. In the absence of complete consensus, there are a large number of shared concerns including security from cyber attacks that provide a basis for cooperation.