With an inflammatory title like "Foreign Spies Stealing US Economic Secrets in Cyberspace," the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive's "Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, 2009-2011" is tough to ignore.

The Report's conclusions are equally notable for their candor about the recent actions of the Chinese and Russian governments:

  • "Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage. US private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China, but the IC cannot confirm who was responsible."  
  • "Russia’s intelligence services are conducting a range of activities to collect economic information and technology from US targets."

The NCIX predictions for the future are sobering:

  • "Over the next several years, the proliferation of portable devices that connect to the Internet and other networks will continue to create new opportunities for malicious actors to conduct espionage. The trend in both commercial and government organizations toward the pooling of information processing and storage will present even greater challenges to preserving the security and integrity of sensitive information."  
  • "The US workforce will experience a cultural shift that places greater value on access to information and less emphasis on privacy or data protection. At the same time, deepening globalization of economic activities will make national boundaries less of a deterrent to economic espionage than ever."

This last prediction is particularly disturbing, but visible, as users migrate from the relatively secure Blackberry platform to iPhones and other smartphones, trading security for an increased sense of utility.