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Foreign Economic Espionage in Cyberspace/Section 1

I. The Strategic Threat of Cyber Economic EspionageEdit

Foreign economic and industrial espionage against the United States continues to represent a significant threat to America’s prosperity, security, and competitive advantage. Cyberspace remains a preferred operational domain for a wide range of industrial espionage threat actors, from adversarial nation-states, to commercial enterprises operating under state influence, to sponsored activities conducted by proxy hacker groups. Next-generation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) will introduce new vulnerabilities to U.S. networks for which the cybersecurity community remains largely unprepared. Building an effective response demands understanding economic espionage as a worldwide, multi-vector threat to the integrity of the U.S. economy and global trade.

The United States remains a global center for research, development, and innovation across multiple high-technology sectors. Federal research institutions, universities, and corporations are regularly targeted by online actors seeking all manner of proprietary information and the overall long-term trend remains worrisome.

While next generation technologies will introduce a range of qualitative advances in data storage, analytics, and computational capacity, they also present potential vulnerabilities for which the cybersecurity community remains largely unprepared. The solidification of cloud computing over the past decade as a global information industry standard, coupled with the deployment of technologies such as AI and IoT, will introduce unforeseen vulnerabilities to U.S. networks.

  • Cloud networks and IoT infrastructure are rapidly expanding the global online operational space. Threat actors have already demonstrated how cloud can be used as a platform for cyber exploitation. As IoT and AI applications expand to empower everything from “smart homes” to “smart cities”, billions of potentially unsecured network nodes will create an incalculably larger exploitation space for cyber threat actors.
  • Lack of industry standardization during this pivotal first-generation deployment period will likely hamper the development of comprehensive security solutions in the near-term.
  • Building an effective response demands understanding economic espionage as a worldwide, multi-vector threat to the integrity of both the U.S. economy and global trade. Whereas cyberspace is a preferred operational domain for economic espionage, it is but one of many. Sophisticated threat actors, such as adversarial nation-states, combine cyber exploitation with supply chain operations, human recruitment, and the acquisition of knowledge by foreign students in U.S. universities, as part of a strategic technology acquisition program.