The Trump administration has warned scientists doing biomedical research at American universities that they may be targets of Chinese spies trying to steal and exploit information from their laboratories. Scientists and universities receiving funds from the National Institutes of Health for cutting-edge research need to tighten their security procedures and take other precautions, said a panel of experts commissioned by the agency to investigate “foreign influences on research integrity.”
To understand China's espionage goals, U.S. officials say, just look at the ambitious aims the country set out in the plan "Made in China 2025." By that date, China wants to be a world leader in artificial intelligence, computing power, military technology, as well as energy and transportation systems. And that's just a partial list.
U.S.-China trade tensions are poised to come to a head this week when President Trump meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and a major component of those talks will likely focus on intellectual property (IP) theft. Federal officials have repeatedly accused Chinese hackers of stealing trade secrets, saying those actions are the underlying reason for billions of dollars worth of tariffs on imports from China.
“They want technology by hook or by crook. They want it now. The spy game has always been a gentleman’s game, but China has taken the gloves off,” said John Bennett, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco office, which battles economic spies targeting Silicon Valley. “They don’t care if they get caught or if people go to jail. As long as it justifies their ends, they are not going to stop.”
Beware of Chinese spies offering laptops, women, or educational stipends--and especially watch out for odd LinkedIn requests. On Tuesday, the Justice Department unsealed new charges against 10 Chinese intelligence officers and hackers who it says perpetrated a years-long scheme to steal trade secrets from aerospace companies.
In a strategy described by the PLA as “picking flowers in foreign lands to make honey in China,” the Chinese military deliberately obscures the connections of those it sends to study overseas, which are different from transparent military-to-military exchanges that also take place between China and other countries.
The risks to U.S. tech companies from Chinese cyberespionage have accelerated. Tech companies from both countries have been pitted against one another, as an enormous amount of American technology is produced in China due to the cheap costs, Ives said, and competition over who will cash in on the technology of tomorrow -- in particular, artificial intelligence -- is extremely fierce. Security concerns are virtually promised to be an issue for many years to come.
An explosive report published by Bloomberg Businessweek on Thursday claimed the Chinese military sabotaged circuit boards used by dozens of major American companies and government contractors by implanting a tiny chip that gave the People’s Liberation Army backdoor access to supposedly secure systems. The report cited a U.S. investigation long in progress but only now revealed to the public.
A report published on Thursday by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies warns Chinese cyberespionage is the “single greatest threat to U.S. technology,” siphoning over $300 billion per year from the U.S. economy.
With more than one million international students studying in the United States, some worry that intellectual property developed here is being stolen. NBC’s senior investigative correspondent Cynthia McFadden travels to China and to Duke University to investigate a case where a professor, who invented special invisibility technology, learned his Chinese grad student walked out the door with his research.