Secret talks have been taking place between the United States, Russia and the United Nations in an attempt to reach agreement on strengthening Internet security and limiting use of cyber-warfare. Reported by the New York Times, the talks aim to reduce the number of attacks that occur online.
Several large-scale cyber-attacks have taken place in recent years, including last years conflict between Russia and Georgia. In 2007 the Estonian government was brought to it's knees by a cyber-attack and earlier this year, plans for a new Â£2bn fighter aircraft were stolen when hackers managed to gain access to American computers. While critics believe such incidents are exaggerated, experts still believe there are serious dangers from criminal gangs, as well as state-sponsored hacking.
Although the New York Times reports that American and Russian officials have different opinions on how the talks are progressing, the discussion does represent a change in policy for the US under the Obama administration, who see cyber-warfare as the next arms race.
"Cyberspace is real, and so is the risk that comes with it," the US President said in May. "From now on, our digital infrastructure will be treated as a strategic asset."
Although Russia is believed to be looking for a disarmament treaty for cyberspace, the US apparently wants greater international cooperation on dealing with cyber-crime. James Lewis, a cyber security experts told the Guardian that there are still some sticking points - both the US and Russia have their own advanced cyber-warfare capabilities which neither side want to reveal.
However, American experts are more concerned with the financial side of cyber crime. With many of the hackers responsible for online fraud based in Russia and China, attempts at tracking and arresting those responsible often go nowhere. Now a multibillion pound business, criminal gangs frequently use cyber attacks to steal money from banks or to disrupt commercial websites.
This August, American Albert Gonzalez pled guilty to his role in an international hacking ring that stole 130 million credit and debit card numbers from American retailers. Although US prosecutors now know the identity of several individuals connected with Gonzalez, a lack of international cooperation makes it unlikely that the culprits will ever be caught.