Biden and Putin discuss rules of engagement for cyber war, want critical services off-limit to cyberattacks

Services like telecommunications, healthcare, food and energy should be off-limits for any cyber attacks, the US President stated.

Russia President Vladimir Putin (L) and US President Joe Biden (R) (Image: Reuters) Russia President Vladimir Putin (L) and US President Joe Biden (R) (Image: Reuters)
Story highlights
  • US President Joe Biden proposed to work on a "specific understanding" between the US and Russia on cyberattacks.
  • He stated that certain critical sectors should be off-limits for such attacks.
  • Putin responded to the appeal in a separate press conference.

In the wake of increased cyberattacks from Russia, US President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin that some critical infrastructure should be "off-limits" to cyberattacks. The statement meant to address destructive hacks rather than intelligence gathering by the concerned agencies.

Biden made the proposal on Wednesday following a lakeside summit with Putin in Geneva. "We agreed to task experts in both our countries to work on specific understandings about what is off-limits," he stated. He noted that the two countries would find out whether they have "a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order."

Biden did not specify the sectors that were to be off-limits. However, he mentioned 16 infrastructure types which include telecommunications, healthcare, food and energy. These are the 16 sectors labelled as critical by the US Homeland Security Department.

Putin responded on the matter in a separate press conference, confirming that the two leaders had agreed to "begin consultations" on such cybersecurity issues. "We need to throw out all kinds of insinuations, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and Russia," Putin told reporters.

Simultaneously, he denied any wrongdoings in this regard from Russian soil. The US blamed several cyberattacks in the recent past on hackers working with the Russian government or belonging to Russian territory. These attacks were spread out across the US, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia.

Maintaining the repeated denial of any involvement of Russia with the attacks, Putin, in turn, blamed the US for several cyberattacks and malicious digital activity. "We certainly see where the attacks are coming from. We see that this work is coordinated from US cyberspace," Putin said.

In a report by Reuters, Keir Giles, a Russia expert with international affairs think tank Chatham House, points out that any understanding between the two countries would require "an outbreak of honesty" and is unlikely to be any more successful than previous attempts made in the direction.

The report also highlights a dismal result from a similar agreement between former US President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. It mentions that while the theft of intellectual property for commercial gain was banned under the agreement, Beijing did not follow on the deal as per many cyber experts.