China Corporate Espionage Boom Knocks Wind Out of U.S. Companies - Bloomberg
China is targeting not only corporations, but DOD and the other departments of the Government. In fact it is not only our government, but virtually all governments and their corporations are being targeted. When I was in the US Secret Service, the Soviet Union was our main threat, with France, Israel, both Korea's, Japan and a few others, China was a very small blip on the radar. All still are threats, and often still attempts by them are discovered, but China has taken the lion's share of the attention at this point.
In a slow or bad economy, China looks and is a very big market for technology firms, even firms that are vendors of technology firms. Often everything from cleaning crews, building maintenance, even delivery firms are approached by agents of China to help them spy on high tech firms. Often they will supply laborers to these vendors, so they can gain access to the high tech firms.
One that has been used very successfully is vendors that supply and maintain plants for offices. The plants come in planters that can hold very sophisticated espionage equipment. The nice part is the vendor can replace the plants as batteries go dead, or equipment malfunctions.
People tend to think all attacks are cyber based now day, when lower tech attacks, are more prevalent than ever. Often the approach someone like China would use, is to keep themselves in the background, and let the person they are using to approach the high tech firm, think either a competitor company is behind the attempt, or even another country. This is often a way for the spy to think they are not doing anything that bad. The Soviets often used agents that posed as being from Israel, so that the people they used did not think they were doing something that bad, since Israel is a friend to the US.
The MI-5 rolled up a number of these type of attacks back in the 70's, as did the FBI in the US. When they told the people working as spies, who they actually where working for, the usually rolled on their handlers very quickly. Some unfortunately never could be convinced that they where actually working for the Soviets, and went to prison thinking they still where working for a friendly country.
No Country is clean, the US is also actively working to gain information from other countries, but China like Japan in the late 50's all the way to the late 60's is trying hard to catch up technology wise to countries like the US, even Japan, so are pulling out all the stops.
Awareness and training are the key elements to any counter espionage effort, and US firms need to be actively working on their programs.
Probably the newest type of attack, is thru our schools of higher learning, China has students in most of our major schools, the US has many going to China as well, but the difference in students is key. We tend to send over 17 to 22 year old's to learn about China itself. China tends to send older more knowledgeable students, that work in engineering and other high tech learning. Many even stay to work at high tech firms here in the US, till they are either caught, or have what they came for an head for home. This type of attack has become so prevalent that FBI and DOD counter intelligence have teams doing nothing else but vetting Chinese students here in the US.