Foreign spies, including U.S. allies, are increasingly launching digital assaults against the nation to steal sensitive economic secrets, according to a report issued Thursday by the U.S. Office of National Counterintelligence Executive (UNSEX).
The report, which UNSEX prepares for Congress every two years, details industrial espionage and economic information and technology theft between 2009 and 2011. China and Russia were specifically called out as the world’s most prolific perpetrators of economic espionage against the United States.
Both countries view themselves as strategic competitors of America, and they carry out such activities to support their own economic development and security, according to the report, compiled with input from at least 13 other U.S. intelligence agencies.
“The nations of China and Russia, through their intelligence services and through their corporations, are attacking our research and development,” Robert “Bear” Bryant, the national counterintelligence executive , said during a news conference Thursday. He added that foreign industrial espionage is a “very serious problem facing the economic viability of the United States.”
A Chinese Embassy spokesman called the claims “unwarranted” and “irresponsible,” according to reports.
Even countries with which the United States has closer ties have carried out remote exploits, though the report did not identify the culprits.
Some U.S. allies and partners use their broad access to U.S. institutions to acquire sensitive U.S. economic and technology information,” the 31-page report said. “Some of these states have advanced cyber capabilities.”
Too, foreign actors have built relationships with hackers to develop customized malware and remote access exploits to steal information, a practice that is expected to continue, according to the report. The loss of economic data represents a “significant” cost to U.S. national security, though the total impact is currently unclear since many organizations are unaware they have been victimized, and others choose not to report such events.
Going forward, cyberespionage will continue to represent a major challenge to U.S. economic security, the report concluded. The proliferation of portable devices that connect to the internet and the trend of pooling information processing and storage will further enable such activities.
And in the future, foreign thieves will be most interested in data related to communications technologies, natural resources, military technologies, clean energy, health care and pharmaceuticals, the report said.