In a display of unusual public candor, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive released a critical report (PDF link) labeling China as the "most active and persistent" country in the world when it comes to cyber-espionage. Russia made the list too, lumped in together with China as "the most aggressive collectors" of U.S. trade secrets, overall.

As of writing, China publicly denounced the accusation. Russian officials have not commented.

The primary purpose of the report is to outline the increasing importance cyber-espionage plays in undermining both private and government interests. Robert Bryant, the U.S. Counterintelligence Executive, claims cyber-espionage is a "national, long-term strategic threat to the United States" and "failure is not an option" when it comes to addressing these matters. In the report, there is a special focus on the undesirable consequences stolen trade secrets may impart upon the U.S. and partner economies.

As for naming names, a senior intelligence official voiced that pointing fingers at specific countries needs to be done. "Economic espionage", the official stated, "is condoned by both China and Russia and is part of each country's national economic development policy".

The Chinese government has been accused numerous times for noteworthy acts of both high-tech and low-tech espionage. The list includes infamously penetrating Google's servers, corroborating with a Ford engineer working as a spy, gaining unauthorized server access at a long list of companies, including Yahoo, Northrop Grumman, Adobe, Symantec, ciphering information from British Universities and much more. Likewise, Russia is well known for its bot nets and "extensive, sophisticated operations" in the realm of cyber-spying.

Here's a snippet from the report:

"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."

It is interesting to note that China and Russia are not the only ones known in the cyber-espionage arena. Isreal and France have also been accused of pilfering U.S. industrial secrets, however, they were left out of the report. Despite being fairly U.S-centric, the report does mention that the issue is prolific on a global scale, not just in the United States. It also goes on to add that Russia and China are frequent victims as well.