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Holder announces anti-theft plan

Strategy aims to protect trade secrets, fight hacking

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 6:13 a.m. MDT

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks about strategy to mitigate the theft of U.S. trade secrets, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. The Obama administration is launching a new strategy to fight the growing theft of trade secrets following new evidence linking cyberstealing to China's military.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Associated Press) Attorney General Eric Holder speaks about strategy to mitigate the theft of U.S. trade secrets, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. The Obama administration is launching a new strategy to fight the growing theft of trade secrets following new evidence linking cyberstealing to China's military. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced new efforts Wednesday to fight the growing theft of American trade secrets, a broad but relatively restrained response to a rapidly emerging global problem that was brought into sharp focus this week by fresh evidence linking cyberstealing to China's military.

Mentioning China but not specifically targeting that country, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the plan, which includes a new diplomatic push to discourage intellectual property theft abroad along with better coordination at home to help U.S. companies protect themselves.

The administration says indications are that economic espionage is increasing, not only through electronic intrusion over the Internet, but also through the recruitment of former employees of U.S. companies with knowledge of inside trade information.

"Particularly in this time of economic recovery, this work is more important than it ever has been before," Holder said at the White House announcement of the administration's strategy.

Attorney General Eric Holder, center, speaks about strategy to mitigate the theft of U.S. trade secrets, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, in the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House complex in Washington. From left are, Undersecretary of Stat Robert Hormats; U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel; Holder; Acting Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank; Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer; and General Electric Vice President Karan Bhatia. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Associated Press) Attorney General Eric Holder, center, speaks about strategy to mitigate the theft of U.S. trade secrets, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, in the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House complex in Washington. From left are, Undersecretary of Stat Robert Hormats; U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel; Holder; Acting Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank; Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer; and General Electric Vice President Karan Bhatia. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Associated Press)

"As new technologies have torn down traditional barriers to international business and global commerce, they've also made it easier for criminals to steal trade secrets — and to do so from anywhere in the world," Holder said. "A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk. With a few keystrokes, a terminated or simply unhappy employee of a defense contractor can misappropriate designs, processes and formulas worth billions of dollars."

Earlier this week, a Virginia-based cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, accused a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai of years of cyberattacks against more than 140 companies, a majority of them American. The accusations and supporting evidence increased pressure on the United States to take more action against the Chinese for what experts say has been years of systematic espionage.

The Chinese government denied being involved in cybertheft, with China's defense minister calling the Mandiant report deeply flawed. China's Foreign Ministry said its country has also been a victim of hacking, much of it traced to the United States.

Mandiant founder and CEO Kevin Mandia is seen in his office in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Mandiant, started in 2004 by Mandia, a private technology security firm described in extraordinary detail efforts it blamed on a Chinese military unit to hack into 141 businesses, mostly inside the U.S., and steal commercial secrets. China denies the claim.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Associated Press) Mandiant founder and CEO Kevin Mandia is seen in his office in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Mandiant, started in 2004 by Mandia, a private technology security firm described in extraordinary detail efforts it blamed on a Chinese military unit to hack into 141 businesses, mostly inside the U.S., and steal commercial secrets. China denies the claim. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Associated Press)

White House strategy

The administration report announced Wednesday didn't threaten any specific consequences for theft of trade secrets, and no new fines or other trade actions were announced. It included five actions to protect American innovation:

Applying diplomatic pressure by senior officials to foreign leaders to discourage theft

Promoting best practices to help industries protect against theft

Enhancing U.S. law enforcement operations to increase investigations and prosecutions

Reviewing U.S. laws to determine if they need to be strengthened to protect against theft

Beginning a public awareness campaign

— Associated Press

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