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Case Studies

US report on cyberspace espionage

In the United States, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) has released its 2018 Foreign Economic Espionage in Cyberspace report. It covers threats and trends in foreign intelligence efforts to steal US intellectual property, trade secrets, and proprietary information via cyberspace.

The report sees technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet-of-Things as offering opportunities, but also introducing vulnerabilities to US networks for which the cybersecurity community largely remains unprepared, according to the NCSC, part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The report names as the most pervasive nation-state threat actors ‘including China, Russia and Iran’ which it describes as ‘aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive’ US economic information and tech. It gives recent examples. That said, the report adds: “Countries with closer ties to the United States have also conducted cyber espionage to obtain US technology.” The report says cyber-espionage offers such countries a relatively low-cost, high-yield avenue to obtain US intellectual property.

Under emerging threats, the report points to ‘software supply chain infiltration’, as a threat to the United States’ critical infrastructure, whether doing physical damage or disruption or doing financial harm; laws in China and Russia, that can pose more of an intellectual property risk to US companies doing business there; and tech firms subject to foreign state influence or with links to foreign states, singling out the IT security firm Kaspersky Lab and telecom software firm Netcracker Technology Corp.

The document makes the point that cyber is part of a larger scheme; which takes in ‘supply chain operations, human recruitment, and the acquisition of knowledge by foreign students in US universities’. Likewise about Russia in particular the report says that cyber is but one part of a ‘multi-pronged approach to information collection’. The document closes by briefly stating what the US Government is doing about it all.

William R Evanina, Director of the NCSC said: “Our goal in releasing this document is simple: to provide US industry and the public with the latest unclassified information on foreign efforts to steal US trade secrets through cyberspace. Building an effective response to this tremendous challenge demands understanding economic espionage as a worldwide, multi-vector threat to the integrity of both the US economy and global trade.”

For the full 20-page report visit

Visit The NCSC offers ‘awareness materials‘ for defensive measures.


James Romer, EMEA Chief Security Architect at SecureAuth + Core Security says: “With the misuse of user credentials accounting for 81 per cent of data breaches in 2017, according to a report from Verizon, a key element to supply chain security lies with the proper access management. Staying on top of your own organisation’s security and technology is challenging enough. However, tracking all third parties is exponentially harder. This is a growing problem and we’re not short of examples of companies suffering data breaches as consequence.

“There needs to be a more robust approach to authentication within organisations’ supply chains. One that brings context to the process and allows for a rapid response to evolving threats without significant human intervention. Implementing analysis of users’ device choice, their behaviour and geographical location for anyone accessing a company network, whether internally or from a third party is crucial. This data can help in the threat detection and incident response phases of the security process. This approach limits the risk associated with the misuse of stolen or lost credentials, before authentication methods are even offered to the end user.”


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