February 20th, 2013
06:03 PM ET

Obama administration takes on hackers stealing trade secrets

By Alex Mooney

The U.S. is seeking a more muscular response to the growing threat from foreign hackers interested in obtaining U.S. businesses’ trade secrets.

The response, in the guise of a 150-page report unveiled by Attorney Gen. Eric Holder and other leading government officials on Wednesday, includes new pledges by the Justice Department and FBI to crack down on hacking, a guide for corporations vulnerable to attacks on how to beef up their own security, and a proposal to better coordinate efforts with U.S. allies to prosecute foreign hackers.

“In this time of economic recovery, this work is more important than it has ever been before,” Holder said Wednesday at a White House event that outlined the new response. “I am pleased to report we are fighting back more aggressively and collaboratively than ever before.”

The announcement comes a day after the Virginia-based Mandiant published a 60-page report that alleges the Chinese government is sponsoring cyber-espionage to attack top U.S. companies.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei dismissed the hacking charges on Tuesday, insisting that China is the victim of many cyber attacks - most originating in the United States.

The Justice Department is also pledging to better communicate its own intelligence on theft of trade secrets with potentially affected corporations and is encourages companies to promptly report potential breaches of security.

The new initiative will also seek to raise public awareness on the real world implications of trade secret theft and propose new legislation to better combat the dangers of corporate hacking.

At the event Wednesday, Holder suggested such cyber attacks more pervasive than most companies realize.

“There are only two [types of] companies that are affected by trade secret theft, those who know they have been compromised and those who don’t know it yet,” he said.

He went on to predict that “continuing technological expansion and accelerated globalization will lead to a dramatic increase in the threat of trade secret theft in the years ahead.”

U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria A. Espinel and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank are also spearheading the new administration strategy.

During his State of the Union Address earlier this month, President Obama said increasing the nation’s cyber security is among his second term priorities.

“We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy,” Obama said.

Filed under: China • Cybersecurity • White House
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