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US Takes Hard Line on Chinese Economic Cyberspying

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. intelligence community has taken a hard line against economic espionage by alerting U.S. business and industry to vast cyber-espionage operations emanating from China.

U.S. intelligence officials estimate that U.S. companies suffered losses of about $50 billion in 2009 from their research and development efforts. This loss represents trade secrets and intellectual property that have been seized through cyber-attacks, piracy and company insider thefts.

American businesses and their intellectual property are aggressively being targeted by Chinese and Russian intelligence entities, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars, according to a report released Thursday entitled, “Foreign Spies Stealing US Economic Secrets in Cyberspace.”

The outreach campaign by the DNI’s National Counterintelligence Executive and the report to Congress on the issue are designed to raise awareness and protect American ingenuity and businesses in tough economic times from foreign economic and industrial espionage.

The report also cites Russia as a sophisticated adversary trying to move away from an economy dependent on natural resources: “Moscow’s highly capable intelligence services are using HUMINT [human intelligence], cyber and other operations to collect economic information and technology to support Russia’s economic development and security.”

The report references a finding by McAfee where a computer intrusion labeled “Night Dragon” traced to China indicated that individuals were attempting to obtain sensitive data from oil and gas companies.

Although the senior intelligence official declined to discuss specific cases, other U.S. officials have confirmed that China has been involved in a vast array of computer attacks.

Officials are trying to generate awareness among U.S. firms  to tackle the growing problem. “Lots of companies are the victims and they don’t even know it,” a senior intelligence official said.

“There is not a silver bullet here. We need to get this issue under control.”

While the report singles out China and Russia, it also notes that some U.S. allies target and acquire economic and high-tech information for their countries’ benefit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio