Attempts to steal US technological and economic information represent a growing and persistent threat to the country's economic security, according to a report by its National Counterintelligence Executive.
In a report, it claimed that as the US is a technology leader, it expects the nature of the cyber threat to evolve with continuing IT advances.
Among the notable threats named are the proliferation of portable devices that will create new opportunities for malicious actors to conduct espionage, as well as judging "that the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive US economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace".
It said: “The relative threat to sensitive US economic information and technologies from a number of countries may change in response to international economic and political developments. One or more fast-growing regional powers may judge that changes in its economic and political interests merit the risk of aggressive cyber and other espionage against US technologies and economic information.”
It also said that while "foreign collectors will remain interested in all aspects of US economic activity and technology", it judged that the greatest interest may be in: information and communications technology; business information that pertains to supplies of scarce natural resources or that gives foreign parties an edge in negotiations with US businesses or the government; military technologies; and civilian and dual-use technologies in sectors likely to experience fast growth, such as clean energy and healthcare/pharmaceuticals.
The report further claimed that computer networks of a broad array of US government agencies, private companies, universities and other institutions that hold large volumes of sensitive economic information were targeted by cyber espionage. It also claimed that much of this activity appears to have originated in China.
It highlighted several instances of intellectual property theft by Chinese nationals and said: “China (and Russia) view themselves as strategic competitors of the United States and are the most aggressive collectors of US economic information and technology.
“US corporations and cyber-security specialists also have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions originating from IP addresses in China, which private-sector specialists call advanced persistent threats',” it said.
“Some of these reports have alleged a Chinese corporate or government sponsor of the activity, but the Intelligence Community (IC) has not been able to attribute many of these private sector data breaches to a state sponsor. Attribution is especially difficult when the event occurs weeks or months before the victims request IC or law enforcement help.”
Looking at Russia, it said "Moscow's highly capable intelligence services are using HUMINT, cyber and other operations to collect economic information and technology to support Russia's economic development and security".