China is the most active country when it comes to economic espionage, according to a new report of the U.S. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX), writes defense expert Wendell Minnick in Defense News. The report used input from “more than a dozen U.S. law enforcement and intelligence collection bodies, including the CIA, FBI, DIA and NSA.”
The report – “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace: Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, 2009-2011” – indicates the U.S. intelligence community judges the use of cyber tools is now a greater threat than more traditional espionage methods.
A recent Chinese espionage case in the U.S. contrasts the shift from traditional espionage tradecraft to today’s cyber espionage techniques. Dongfan Chung, a former Boeing and Rockwell engineer who had worked on the B-1 bomber and space shuttle, was sentenced by a U.S. Federal Court in 2010 to 15 years for having 250,000 pages of sensitive documents in his home.
“This is suggestive of the volume of information Chung could have passed to his handlers between 1979 to 2006,” the report said.
The logistics of handling the physical volume of so many documents, equal to “four 4-drawer filing cabinets,” are staggering. However, according to the report, today the information could have easily fit onto a compact disc or transferred via e-mail. “Cyberspace makes possible the near instantaneous transfer of enormous quantities of economic and other information.”..
China’s intelligence services seek to “exploit” Chinese citizens or persons with family ties to China to recruit. Of the seven cases that were adjudicated under the Economic Espionage Act in 2010, six involved a link to China.
U.S. corporations and cyber security specialists have reported an “onslaught” of computer network intrusions originating from China. “Some of these reports have alleged a Chinese corporate or government sponsor of the activity,” but the U.S. intelligence community has not been able to confirm these reports.
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