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IP theft: Declining, or just more stealthy?

Taylor Armerding | March 31, 2017
According to several reports, economic espionage by China has been declining since before an agreement 18 months ago to curb it.

Quinn and others note that while China and Russia remain the prime practitioners of economic espionage, it needs to be noted that other countries – including US allies – do it as well.

Quinn referenced “Friendly Spies,” a book by Peter Schweizer (also author of the more recent and much more controversial “Clinton Cash”) published 24 years ago, in 1993, that is subtitled, “How America’s allies are using economic espionage to steal our secrets.”

In that book, Schweizer quotes Pierre Marion, France’s first director of the Directorate-General for External Security, saying that being military or diplomatic allies does not extend into the economic sphere. “In economics, we are competitors, not allies,” he said.

If economic cyber espionage against the US is to be stopped, or even brought under control, it will take both domestic and international efforts, experts say.

Barak said the problem, “really has to be tackled through international norms. The vast majority is outside the hands of the private sector, which can’t deal with it.”

Quinn said he thinks a review of more serious Chinese espionage cases should be used to, “create a study or compilation of lessons learned. Additionally, create an awareness of Chinese intelligence gathering activities and suggested countermeasures for US commercial firms.”

He said Trump could suggest intelligence sharing between the US and China, and perhaps create a bilateral group, “to conduct regular reviews of economic and cyber espionage cases. The same group should also have counterparts appointed in China.”

Murray, however, contended that the private sector needs to be much more effective in protecting itself. He pointed CSO to a 2015 blog post in which he declared: “We fight like hell for our freedom, but we let the world pick our intellectual pockets.”

Murray said the “punish-the-spy” model isn’t enough – that corporations should be held accountable as well, for failure to protect their assets.

“We need a law creating business counterespionage security standards, with penalties for inadequate protection,” he said, arguing that the US already, “successfully employs the same concept with medical and financial record privacy.”

Ultimately, Quinn said, the US should not depend on agreements – especially with adversaries. He cited a quote attributed to McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc: "Contracts, like hearts, are meant to be broken.”


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