US hails progress with Russia on cybersecurity cooperation

The two countries continue to meet to strengthen cooperation on computer security issues

Russia and the U.S. are working to reduce chances for a cybersecurity incident that could damage the countries' relationship, according to the top cybersecurity adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Howard Schmidt, the White House cybersecurity adviser, wrote about a recent meeting with Russian officials where the two countries agreed to exchange technical information on problems such as botnets and have "crisis prevention" communications links by the end of the year.

"Both the U.S. and Russia are committed to tackling common cybersecurity threats while at the same time reducing the chances a misunderstood incident could negatively affect our relationship," Schmidt wrote on the White House blog.

Schmidt's announcement comes as the U.S. has tried since 2009 to "reset" its relationship with Russia following increasing tension on defense issues.

Russia's strength in computer science has also led to a dark side, with hackers writing and selling malware designed to steal money from online bank acconts. Computer security experts have said the country is not as forthright as others when it comes to cooperating on cross-border cybercrime investigations.

But researchers have seen some surprising movements and actions as of late by Russia, said Roel Schouwenberg, senior researcher with Kaspsersky Lab, a Russian antivirus company based in Moscow. He cited the arrest last month of Pavel Vrublevsky, co-founder of ChronoPay, an online payment processor linked with processing payments for companies that sell fake antivirus software and pharmaceuticals on the Internet.

"I think what we have been seeing so far are all positives," Schouwenberg said. "Going by that, I think we are moving in a good direction. Governments never move fast."

Russia has not signed the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime, the only international treaty that promotes harmonized computer crime legislation across different countries and contact points for law enforcement available 24 hours a day.

Countries outside the 47-member Council, which represents European countries, may apply for accession, the first step in implementing the treaty. The U.S. has ratified the treaty.

However, only recently have countries that are traditionally allies been linked up better for cross-border law-enforcement actions, Schouwenberg said. "I think the fact that Russia now is going to work more closely with the U.S. is obviously a good thing. It can only be applauded," he said.

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