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US spy agencies to detail cyber-attacks from abroad

This news story was published on December 7, 2012.
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By Ken Dilanian, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — The U.S. intelligence community is nearing completion of its first detailed review of cyber-spying against American targets from abroad, including an attempt to calculate U.S. financial losses from hacker attacks based in China, officials said.

The National Intelligence Estimate, the first involving cyber-espionage, also will seek to determine how large a role the Chinese government plays in directing or coordinating digital attacks aimed at stealing U.S. intellectual property, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a classified undertaking.

The Pentagon requested the estimate more than a year ago, and it sparked a broad review of evidence and analysis from the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. The document has been submitted to the National Intelligence Council, which coordinates such efforts, but it was unclear whether the council had reached or approved final conclusions. The study is expected to be given to policymakers early next year.

U.S. intelligence agencies monitor daily digital assaults from hackers based in China who seek to steal intellectual property from American and other Western companies, current and former intelligence officials said. Intelligence analysts disagree over the extent to which the intrusions are organized by Chinese authorities, but the CIA and National Security Agency have traced cyber-attacks and thefts to Chinese military and intelligence agencies.

“We know much more about who is doing this than we did even two years ago,” one official involved in the effort said. “We have traced attacks back to a desk in a (People’s Liberation Army) office building.”

Some analysts believe the Chinese government has a broad policy of encouraging theft of intellectual property through cyber-attacks, but that it leaves the details to intelligence services, state-owned companies and freelancers. As a result, at least some of the attacks appear poorly orchestrated.

U.S. officials have raised concerns about cyber-espionage with Chinese officials. Beijing has denied any involvement.

Obama administration officials have publicly warned in recent months about threats to national security from cyber-attacks, but they have tiptoed around the issue of who is to blame. “It’s no secret that Russia and China have advanced cyber-capabilities,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in a speech on Oct. 11 in New York.

Russia engages in cyber-espionage against government targets, as does China, the United States, Israel, France and other nations. But Russia does not systematically steal corporate secrets from U.S. companies to aid its own national companies, U.S. intelligence officials say.

Last week, the congressionally sponsored U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission alleged that China has “an elaborate strategy for obtaining America’s advanced technology by subterfuge, either stealing it outright or by requiring U.S. companies to turn over technology to Chinese business partners as a condition for investment and market access in China.”

Part of that strategy relies on computer attacks, the commission said.

“In 2012, Chinese state-sponsored actors continued to exploit U.S. government, military, industrial and nongovernmental computer systems,” the report said. “The volume of exploitation attempts yielded enough successful breaches to make China the most threatening actor in cyberspace.”

Losses from the theft of U.S. intellectual property through cyber-attacks and theft are difficult to quantify but are believed to be in the billions of dollars a year.

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5 Responses to US spy agencies to detail cyber-attacks from abroad

  1. Avatar

    Katie Reply Report comment

    December 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    They didn’t take all the jobs that Americans didn’t want to do. They are doing all the jobs that union workers here wouldn’t do for a reasonable wage.

    • Avatar

      LVS Reply Report comment

      December 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      @Katie-it amounts to the same thing. They are making the computers and component parts that we are using in our military and industry. It allows them back door access to our technology.

  2. Avatar

    LVS Reply Report comment

    December 7, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Just to help out the Chinese we buy computers and chips and all kinds of stuff from them that they are able to program to let them spy on us. We do this just to make money for the already rich. We are real smart are we not?

  3. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 7, 2012 at 7:35 am

    By the way fox news reported long ago the pentegon has up to 4000 cyber attacks daily – Directed from China !

  4. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 7, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Shattered my dream ! — I thought ThAT Communist China was our friend? Look ! they took all a manufacturing jobS that americans did not want to do and copied/stole our inventions for 10 years – Oh the thought of a socialst party stealing from us. Did they also duplicate the obamma paper thing? FOR SHAME !