The Cold War 24-hour hotline established to prevent accidental nuclear war between the US and the then Soviet Union has been updated to deal with a modern risk – accidental cyber war.
The White House, in a release this week, said the new use for the hot line was among the results of two years of talks between Washington and Moscow on information and communications technology (ICT) issues.
“Our two nations now are leading the way in extending traditional transparency and confidence-building measures to reduce the mutual danger we face from cyber threats,” the release said.
It said a new US-Russian working group, charged with assessing emerging ICT threats and proposing joint measures to address them, would begin operating within the next month.
“The US and the Russian Federation have also concluded a range of steps designed to increase transparency and reduce the possibility that a misunderstood cyber incident could create instability or a crisis in our bilateral relationship,” the White House said.
“They represent important progress by our two nations to build confidence and strengthen our relations in cyberspace; expand our shared understanding of threats appearing to emanate from each other’s territory; and prevent unnecessary escalation of ICT security incidents.”
The release said the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) in the Department of Homeland Security would communicate with its Russian counterpart about malware or other malicious indicators “appearing to originate from each other’s territory, to aid in proactive mitigation of threats.”
“To prevent crises, the US and Russia also recognize the need for secure and reliable lines of communication to make formal inquiries about cybersecurity incidents of national concern,” the White House said. “In this spirit, we have decided to use the longstanding Nuclear Risk Reduction Center links established in 1987 between the US and the former Soviet Union to build confidence between our two nations through information exchange, employing their around-the-clock staffing.”
It said that this new use of the “allows us to quickly and reliably make inquiries of one another’s competent authorities to reduce the possibility of misperception and escalation from ICT security incidents.”
The White House said a direct secure voice communications line had been authorized between Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel and the Russian Deputy Secretary of the Security Council in case of a crisis. “This direct line will be seamlessly integrated into the existing direct secure communication system (‘hotline’) that both governments already maintain, ensuring that our leaders are prepared to manage the full range of national security crises we face internationally.”
The release added that the US and Russian armed forces were already sharing unclassified ICT strategies and other relevant studies. “These kinds of exchanges are important to ensuring that as we develop defense policy in this dynamic domain, we do so with a full understanding of one another’s perspectives,” it said.
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