No Sign China Has Stopped Hacking U.S. Companies, Official Says

  • China isn't seen abiding by agreement reached with Obama
  • U.S. to release report in December on digital espionage

The Chinese government hasn’t stopped hacking American companies to steal industrial trade secrets, despite pledges to do so, the top U.S. national counterintelligence official said.

"We haven’t seen any indication in the private sector that anything has changed," said William Evanina, who works under U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper, told reporters Wednesday.

"We are skeptical at best in the intelligence community that they would be able to do that," Evanina said. "It would be turning off a big faucet in China."

President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, announced an agreement in September that their governments won’t conduct economic espionage through hacking the private networks of companies.

China denies it conducts commercial hacking, saying it’s a victim of cyber-espionage itself and opposes such attacks. The two countries had high-level exchanges on cyber-issues that were suspended after the U.S. indicted five Chinese military officials last year on charges that they stole trade secrets from companies including Westinghouse Electric Co. and United States Steel Corp.

September Agreement

China’s failure to abide by the September agreement may increase demands that the Obama administration act to punish Beijing, possibly by placing new sanctions on companies and officials involved in hacking attacks.

Evanina said his office plans to release a report in December documenting
economic espionage via cyber-attacks. Nearly 140 companies helped prepare the report,
half of which said they had been targeted by foreign governments, Evanina said.

The Chinese government is believed to be behind 90 percent of the attacks, he said.

Economic espionage through hacking is costing the U.S. economy $400 billion a year, he said.

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