White House unveils trade secret theft prevention strategy

By Danny Palmer
21 Feb 2013 View Comments
Garden view of the front of the White House

The US faces a growing threat from trade secret theft by foreign hackers and needs to apply new legislation and diplomatic pressure in order to protect American businesses.

That's what a White House spokesman told the press at an event to launch a new strategy to prevent such threats.

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"A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk," said US attorney general Eric Holder.

It recommends working with other governments to track threats, using trade policies to put pressure on states that enable hacking trade secrets and an increased need for prosecutions.

Holder said it was important that the US government takes action to counter "a significant and steadily increasing threat to the country's economy and national security interests".

"As new technology has torn down traditional barriers to international business and global commerce, it also makes it easier for criminals to steal secrets and to do so from anywhere in the world," he added.

The White House documents 17 instances of Chinese companies or individuals stealing trade secrets since 2010, with targets including General Motors, Ford, Motorola and Boeing.

Recent reports suggest that many cyber attacks originate from a building used by the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

Naturally, China denies any involvement in hacking government and businesses in the US.

"The Chinese military has never supported any kind of hacker activities, so saying that the Chinese military is involved in internet attacks is neither professional, nor consistent with the facts," said a Chinese Ministry of National Defence spokesman.

Last week, US president Barack Obama signed an executive order designed to protect key elements of the country's infrastructure against cyber-attacks and hackers.

"We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets," said the president. "Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions and our air traffic control systems."

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