US steps up efforts to protect its trade secrets
Washington: The Obama administration warned on Wednesday it would launch new efforts to persuade China and other countries to halt the theft of billions of dollars' worth of US trade secrets.
The threat to place offender countries on a watch list and other steps are part of a broader effort by the administration to co-ordinate with other nations to fight the growing theft of intellectual property.
''State sponsored trade-secret theft … embattles our status as world leader in innovation,'' Victoria Espinel, the White House co-ordinator of intellectual-property enforcement, said at a strategy roll-out.
The new effort comes amid heightened attention to the issue of cyber-espionage directed at commercial targets, especially by China.
This week, the cyber security firm Mandiant issued a report accusing the Chinese government of massive hacking campaigns against US targets and the President, Barack Obama, recently issued an executive order aimed at better securing the computer networks of critical industries such as energy.
On Wednesday, China's state-owned news agency said Mandiant's claims that the nation's military was behind global cyber attacks were ''full of loopholes''.
It was ''highly unlikely'' anyone could trace where attacks originated from because hackers hid behind a network of proxies, Xinhua news agency said.
''It is beyond belief that a firm specialised in the field of cyber security could be so indiscreetly desperate as to jump to a conclusion so full of loopholes,'' Xinhua said. The claims ''will only tarnish the image and reputation of the company making them, as well as that of the US''.
Within the past year, Mr Obama, the Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton have raised economic cyber-espionage with their Chinese counterparts.
''Our message is quite clear: the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets is critical to all intellectual property rights holders, whether they be from the United States or whether they be from Chinese companies or other companies around the world,'' Robert Hormats, the under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said.
Though China is regarded as the most aggressive actor, Mr Hormats said other countries are guilty as well. He cited Russia and India as two countries active in the theft of intellectual property.
While officials said they are concerned about traditional means for stealing commercial secrets, through tactics such as recruiting current or former employees, they said cyberspace is an increasingly important avenue for espionage.
''A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk,'' the Attorney-General, Eric Holder, said.
He said the Justice Department has made prosecution of trade-secret theft a top priority. The department is seeking to bring cases of economic cyber-espionage that officials hope will deter foreign governments from hacking US company networks. Plans also call for federal law enforcement to pursue stronger agreements with foreign counterparts to pursue investigations in their own countries.
Jason Healey, the director of the Atlantic Council's cyber statecraft initiative, called for more specific steps, such as denial of visas to officials from foreign companies that benefit from the theft of US trade secrets and blacklisting the firms from US government contracts.
The Washington Post, Bloomberg