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US and Russia agree to use Cold War-era hotline to stave off cyberwar

US and Russia agree to use Cold War-era hotline to stave off cyberwar

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The US and Russian governments have agreed to repurpose a Cold War-era hotline in a new pact that they say will prevent any chance of cyberwar between the two countries. As a part of the agreement, formalized on Tuesday at a G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland, the two nations said they will regularly share information on hacking incidents and other cyber attacks seen in their countries, both electronically and by way of a pre-existing direct phone line. The alliance comes after more than two years of negotiations between the US and Russia over what information should be shared and how, the White House said in a statement.

Within the next month, the Department of Homeland Security's US Computer Emergency Readiness Team and its Russian counterpart will begin regularly exchanging "practical technical information on cybersecurity risks to critical systems." Among the data that will be shared is "technical information about malware or other malicious indicators," as long as these threats originate from either the US or Russia.

Cold War comms will be used to chase down hackers in the US and Russia

Information will be shared electronically, but the two nations will be able to call each other up as well. The new pact will filter communication through the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center (NRRC) — a central hub where the US receives various types of messages from its allies that pertain to national security threats. The NRRC is staffed 24 hours a day by the Department of State, and Russia's Ministry of Defense in Moscow has a similar staff in place that communicates with the US, the two countries said. Now, the NRRC will additionally field calls and messages that have to do with online threats.

As for the hotline component in all this, that will happen thanks to a Direct Secure Communication System — a phoneline "that both governments already maintain, ensuring that our leaders are prepared to manage the full range of national security crises we face internationally." Both the phoneline and the NRRC were put in place in 1988, near the end of the Cold War, by the Reagan Administration and then-USSR Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev, as a means to prevent nuclear war between the US and what is now Russia.