President Barack Obama took mounting U.S. concerns about computer hacking straight to China's president on Thursday in a sign of how seriously the United States takes the threat of cyber attacks emanating from China.
A day after meeting with U.S. corporate CEOs in the White House Situation Room about cyber threats, Obama spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the cyber issue as well as North Korea's nuclear challenge, currency and trade issues.
The two leaders committed to engage in an ongoing discussion to address the cyber issue, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters. "Given our significant concerns in this space we need to ensure protection for our citizens, our security and our businesses," he said.
Earlier this week, U.S. intelligence leaders said for the first time that cyber attacks and cyber espionage had supplanted terrorism as the top security threat facing the United States.
U.S. businesses are increasingly alarmed about the targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China.
The issue has suddenly soared to the top of the U.S.-China agenda. The Washington Post reported last month, for instance, that security experts believe Chinese cyber spies have in recent years hacked many of Washington's law firms, think tanks, news organizations, human rights groups, contractors, congressional offices, embassies and federal agencies.
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Obama told ABC News in an interview aired on Wednesday that some cybersecurity threats are "absolutely" sponsored by governments while some are sponsored by criminals.