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US Report Highlights Economic Threat of Hacking

Senin, 11 Februari 2013 | 0 komentar

U.S. officials say a new government report details the threat hackers pose to the nation's economy, with China a clear leader among countries carrying out cyber attacks.

Officials have described the classified "National Intelligence Estimate" to U.S. media, including The Washington Post, which said late Sunday hackers are targeting the energy, finance, information technology, aerospace and automotive sectors.

Some estimates put the cost to the U.S. economy at tens of billions of dollars each year.  But, with some companies reluctant to report when they are hacked, the true cost is not known.

Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum think tank,says it is difficult to identify the true sources of cyber espionage, and that a broad range of sectors are open to attack.

"Attacks have been on the rise without question. Again, we're sort of guessing where they're coming from. As for the vulnerabilities to the financial sector, I would assume that's correct, but I would suggest that the vulnerabilities are throughout the U.S. economy," said Glosserman. "The problem is that many people do not like to speak about these things because either they're unaware they're being attacked or very reluctant to publicize their vulnerabilities."

The White House is weighing how to respond, with options including possible trade actions and visa restrictions.  The Washington Post says President Barack Obama is expected to issue an executive order on cyber security this week aimed at helping the private sector protect against hacking attempts.

The newspaper says the report also names Russia, Israel and France as countries that have used cyber attacks for economic intelligence.

The Post has reported having its own systems infiltrated by Chinese hackers, as have The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.  The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied the accusations last month, calling them "baseless" and "irresponsible."

Related - Chinese Cyber Hackers a Growing Threat

Duncan Clarke of Stanford University, who also chairs BDA - a China-based investment and advisory firm - says that if China is responsible for directing corporate espionage, it would be to benefit Chinese state companies as part of an effort to compete with the United States.  He said a government could harm its own economy if it responds too harshly.

"The risk is though in overreacting, particularly without explicit evidence, that you cause protectionist tendencies," said Clarke. "There's already been issues at Huawei and ZTE, which are China's champion telecom equipment companies, denying them access to U.S. markets. And we haven't seen that level of concern in other countries. So the risk is that you actually hurt your own interests by taking too hard a line on this."

The U.S. government has been concerned for years about the "significant and growing" threat of hackers stealing data for economic gain.  A 2011 report to Congress identified China and Russia as cyber spies stealing trade secrets and technological information from U.S. companies, research institutions and intelligence services.

Last year, Congress tried to act.  The House of Representatives passed a bill to help bolster the nation's cyber defenses, but similar legislation failed in the Senate.

President Obama also urged action, saying, "It would be the height of irresponsibility to leave a digital backdoor wide open to our cyber adversaries."  He says foreign governments and criminals are looking into U.S. financial, energy and public safety systems "every day."

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued a strong warning about the threat of cyber attacks in a speech in October.  He says the U.S. military has put $3 billion into cyber security efforts.
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