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The recent ransomware attacks on the U.S. gas and meat industries have sparked renewed conversationsabout the possibility of an international cyber agreement that would set the ground rules for what is and isn’t permissible, and spell out sanctions for violators.

In the latest sign of the U.S.-Russia cyber tensions, the National Security Agency and other government security branches issued a joint advisory Thursday on how Russia’s military intelligence has been trying to break into government and private computer networks for the past two years.

The statement did not cite specific hacks, though it provided pages of technical details, noting, for example, that the attackers often sought to go through Microsoft’s cloud services to reach an intended target.×2400-the-match-2021-live-stream-reddit-hd-167461085/×2400-the-match-2021-live-stream-reddit-hd-167461085/×2400-the-match-2021-live-stream-reddit-hd-167461085/

As shown by the attack on Colonial Pipeline that shut down a major East Coast oil distribution network, the U.S. and other countries have a compelling interest in containing such a threat,says Glenn Altschuler, a professor of American Studies at Cornell University.

“We’re talking about the possibility of taking out power grids, water systems, hospital services,” he tells NPR.

Altschuler thinks such an agreement — at least a bilateral version of it between the U.S. and Russia — could be loosely modeled on Cold War arms agreements.

Such discussions have been kicking around for years, but many cyber experts remain deeply skeptical that such an agreement could be reached, let alone enforced.

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