Hacking said major threat to U.S. economy

Feb. 11, 2013 at 4:06 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Cyberespionage campaigns against the United States represent a massive and sustained threat to the nation's economy, a new intelligence assessment says.

Individuals familiar with the classified report say the National Intelligence Estimate names China as the prime culprit, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

China has denied such allegations. Russia, Israel and France are also considered by the report as among the countries engaged in trying to steal economic secrets, but not on the same scale as China.

Once considered a threat primarily to U.S. military and intelligence agencies, cyberespionage is now seen as a major threat to U.S. industry. In the past five years, hacking has been experienced by a wide range of industries, including energy, finance, information technology, aerospace and automotive.

Outside experts estimate the financial impact has been in the tens of billions of dollars.

The State Department has now made the issue part of its strategic security dialogue with China. Obama administration options include formal protests, expelling diplomatic personnel, imposing travel and visa restrictions and filing complaints with the World Trade Organizations, analysts say.

Some 100 prosecutors are being trained by the Justice Department to bring cases against hackers sponsored by foreign governments.

However, the government cannot file a case on its own. It needs businesses to inform it of cyberbreak-ins, something they are typically reluctant to do.

The White House is expected to issue an executive order this week that calls for voluntary cybersecurity standards for critical computer systems in the private sector and for enhanced sharing of threat information by the government with companies.

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