WASHINGTON – Amid growing evidence that China and other countries are stealing U.S. trade secrets and technology through cyberattacks, the White House announced what it billed as a new strategy Wednesday to protect intellectual property.
The strategy, which does not focus exclusively on cybertheft, seeks to improve coordination of existing efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies and the State and Justice departments, but it does not include new penalties or sanctions.
Obama last week signed an executive order for the government to share more classified information about cyberthreats with U.S. companies that own or operate crucial infrastructure, including dams and energy and telecommunications facilities.
“We know that trade secret theft can cripple a company’s competitive advantage in foreign markets, diminish export prospects around the globe and put American jobs in jeopardy,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.
The modest steps were announced a day after computer security company Mandiant Corp. in Alexandria, Va., released a report that says a secretive Chinese military unit has stolen digital blueprints, plans, bidding orders and other sensitive data from at least 141 U.S. and Canadian companies over the last six years. Chinese authorities in Beijing denied any involvement and questioned the report’s veracity.
Carney said the United States and other countries need to develop “an understanding of acceptable behavior in cyberspace.”
“We repeatedly, and will continue to, raise our concerns at the highest levels about cybertheft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military,” he said.
Briefing reporters at the White House, Robert Hormats, undersecretary of state for economic growth, called China’s theft of intellectual property “a serious and highly troubling issue.”
The White House distributed a 2011 report by the National Counterintelligence Executive office, titled “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace,” that named China as a “persistent collector” of U.S. corporate secrets.
U.S. intelligence officials said China has mounted a concerted campaign to siphon intellectual property and feed it to state-sponsored industries to save on research-and-development costs.