Foreign economic collection and industrial espionage against the United States represent significant and growing threats to the nation’s prosperity and security. Cyberspace—where most business activity and development of new ideas now takes place—amplifies these threats by making it possible for malicious actors, whether they are corrupted insiders or foreign intelligence services (FIS), to quickly steal and transfer massive quantities of data while remaining anonymous and hard to detect.
Pervasive Threat from Adversaries and Partners
Sensitive US economic information and technology are targeted by the intelligence services, private sector companies, academic and research institutions, and citizens of dozens of countries.
- Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage. US private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China, but the IC cannot confirm who was responsible.
- Russia’s intelligence services are conducting a range of activities to collect economic information and technology from US targets.
- Some US allies and partners use their broad access to US institutions to acquire sensitive US economic and technology information, primarily through aggressive elicitation and other human intelligence (HUMINT) tactics. Some of these states have advanced cyber capabilities.
Because the United States is a leader in the development of new technologies and a central player in global financial and trade networks, foreign attempts to collect US technological and economic information will continue at a high level and will represent a growing and persistent threat to US economic security. The nature of the cyber threat will evolve with continuing technological advances in the global information environment.
- Over the next several years, the proliferation of portable devices that connect to the Internet and other networks will continue to create new opportunities for malicious actors to conduct espionage. The trend in both commercial and government organizations toward the pooling of information processing and storage will present even greater challenges to preserving the security and integrity of sensitive information.
- The US workforce will experience a cultural shift that places greater value on access to information and less emphasis on privacy or data protection. At the same time, deepening globalization of economic activities will make national boundaries less of a deterrent to economic espionage than ever.
We judge that the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive US economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace.
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.