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U.S. vows to fight trade secrets thefts

Feb. 20, 2013 at 11:23 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama says it will vigorously fight to stop theft of U.S. trade secrets by foreign companies and governments.

It unveiled its "Administration Strategy on mitigating the theft of U.S. trade secrets," amid warnings from experts about rising cyberattacks from nations such as China.

"We will continue to act vigorously to combat the theft of U.S. trade secrets that could be used by foreign companies or foreign governments to gain an unfair economic edge," the document said, adding such threats "jeopardize our status as the world's leader for innovation and creativity."

Speaking at the strategy rollout, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the effort is particularly important "in this time of ongoing economic recovery." He said American companies remain the most innovative in the world and are responsible for many of the most important technological advances.

However, Holder said such prosperity can also be a double-edged sword as it would inevitably attracts global rivals -- including individuals, companies, and even countries – eager to tilt the playing field to their advantage.

"By corrupting insiders, hiring hackers, and engaging in other unscrupulous and illegal activities, these entities can inflict devastating harm on individual creators, start-ups, and major companies," he said.

He warned new technologies that have brought down traditional barriers to international commerce also have made it "easier for criminals to steal trade secrets -- and to do so from anywhere in the world."

This week U.S. cybersecurity company Mandiant in Virginia released a lengthy study about China's cyberattacks, tracing some of those to a 12-story building outside Shanghai that is home to a unit of China's People's Liberation Army.

The New York Times in an investigative piece on Mandiant's findings also said a growing body of digital forensic evidence, confirmed by U.S. intelligence officials, showed much of the attacks on U.S. corporations, organizations and government agencies appeared to originate in and around the Shanghai building.

Both the Chinese defense and foreign ministries strongly denied allegations of cyberattacks on U.S. websites, adding China itself is a victim of such attacks.

The new administration strategy, drawn up with inputs from various U.S. departments and intelligence agencies, warned, "Emerging trends indicate that the pace of economic espionage and trade secret theft against U.S. corporations is accelerating."

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said a study by her department found nearly 35 percent of U.S. GDP comes from industries relying heavily on intellectual property. These industries account for more than half the value of U.S. exports and support about 40 million good-paying jobs.

"Trade secrets are a unique form of intellectual property in that -- unlike the patents and trademarks we studied -- their value comes from other businesses not knowing about them," she said.

In his media briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney urged Congress to take up cybersecurity legislation "because it's important for our national security and our economic security."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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