WASHINGTON - Online industrial spying by China and Russia presents a growing threat to the U.S. economy and its national security, the top counterintelligence agency said Thursday, abandoning the caution American officials typically display when asked to name the countries they believe are most responsible for cyber-economic espionage.
Billions of dollars of trade secrets, technology and intellectual property are being siphoned each year from the computer systems of U.S. government agencies, corporations and research institutions to benefit the economies of China and other countries, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive said.
Its report to Congress was released Thursday morning.
The hackers come from many countries and range from foreign intelligence services to corporations to criminals, according to the report, "Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace." But it leaves no doubt as to who are the most intent on stealing secrets.
"Chinese actors are the world's most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage," the report states.
In addition, it says, "Russia's intelligence services are conducting a range of activities to collect economic information and technology from U.S. targets."
At a news conference accompanying the report's release, Robert Bryant, the national counterintelligence executive, called online spying "a quiet menace to our economy with notably big results."
"Trade secrets developed over thousands of working hours by our brightest minds are stolen in a split second and transferred to our competitors," Bryant said.
China and Russia have routinely denied such charges, and a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy expressed outrage at the report by the counterintelligence office, whose focus is intelligence threats to the United States.
"We are opposed to willfully making unwarranted allegations against China as firmly as our opposition to any forms of unlawful cyberspace activities," embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said in an e-mail.
A senior U.S. intelligence official, who conducted a media briefing about the report Wednesday on the condition of anonymity, said the government's unusual candor in naming particular countries was prompted by the severity of the threat.
"From a counterintelligence standpoint and the threat to our national economy, I think we have to suggest and say who we consider the foreign intelligence services and the countries that are doing the most harm," the official said.
The FBI alerted more than 100 U.S. companies in the past year that they had been hacked, officials said.
by Ellen Nakashima Washington Post Nov. 4, 2011 12:00 AM
U.S.: Cyberspying by China, Russia a threat
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