American firms wage private cyber-combat against Chinese rivals…precisely that scenario is being considered by former senior American officials, who report that intellectual property (IP) is being stolen on an unprecedented scale, and that passive defences no longer work. Annual losses from the theft of American IP are probably on a similar scale to America’s total exports to Asia, at around $300 billion a year, concludes a report by a Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, a private initiative led by Dennis Blair, Barack Obama’s first director of national intelligence, and Jon Huntsman, a former ambassador to China and unsuccessful contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. “Extraordinary” numbers of commercial and government entities are bent on stealing American IP. Between half and 80% of them are Chinese, depending on the sector, commissioners say. They also
To date victims have been loth to retaliate. Companies do not want to be seen as “weak” and fear being singled out for punishment as they seek access to Chinese markets, says Mr Huntsman. Companies under attack also face legal constraints that defy common sense, says Admiral Blair. Victims face prosecution if they accidentally damage hackers’ American-hosted computers when trying to recover stolen files, let alone if they deliberately tell files to self-destruct.
Changing the law to permit aggressive counter-measures would be controversial…, recommendations include denying repeat offenders access to America’s banking system, or blocking IP abusers from making big American investments.
Intellectual property:Fighting China’s hackers, Economist, May 25, 2013 at 31