Targeting U.S. Technologies

The volume and diversity of suspicious requests for information and technology from the cleared industrial base continued to increase in fiscal year 2009 (FY09). There was a nominal shift in overall hierarchy of regions of origin with the South and Central Asia and Europe and Eurasia in close competition for the third and fourth positions respectively. Although subtle, this change may indicate that collection activities in FY09 were more broad-based, with some traditional actors potentially masking affiliations by working through more innocuous surrogates.

Increased awareness and threat sensitivity from cleared industry is partially responsible for elevating the total volume and diversity of reports, including reports of collection attempts from non-traditional collectors, like students, who cleared industry may have previously considered purely innocuous.

According to industry reporting and analysis of suspicious collectors, East Asian and Pacific entities retained their status as the most prolific collector of U.S. technology with 36 percent of contacts originating from this region. Overt contacts in cleared industry with a nexus to this region more than doubled the volume from any other regional collector and dwarfed the suspicious collection attempts emanating from the second most active regional collector of U.S. technology, the Near East.

For the third consecutive year, the number of collection attempts identifiable with the commercial sector continued to grow, as those affiliated with the governmental sector declined as a percentage of the whole. This recurring trend likely indicates that foreign governments are increasingly dependent on commercial surrogates to collect and support national requirements instead of solely relying on state-sponsored entities. In addition, an increasingly globalized world market, facilitated by the ease of Internet connectivity, directly aids and fosters commercial collection attempts in cleared industry.

The exponential growth of the Internet and the difficulty of ascertaining the true origins of cyber-based inquiries frequently made it difficult to assess the requestor’s definitive affiliation and, at times, the region of origin. As a result, the unknown affiliation category also increased in FY09 owing to instances where analysis could not directly attribute the contact to a specific end-user affiliation.

The method of simply asking for information or technology via the Internet, email, or telephone remained, by far, the most common technique used to acquire information from cleared industry, representing over 60 percent of all incidents. The dominance of the direct request technique has continued unabated since DSS began compiling statistics, underscoring the technique’s apparent efficacy as a collection tool. However, collectors also used other methods to contact cleared industry such as exploiting foreign visits to cleared facilities, offering services, or soliciting business relationships in apparent attempts to acquire classified or restricted U.S. technologies.

In FY09 foreign collectors also employed the suspicious Internet activity method of operation, or cyber collection, in attempts to gain entry to cleared industry’s networks and technology. Foreign entities routinely targeted cleared contractor networks in apparent attempts to penetrate computer systems and acquire data. East Asian and Pacific regional actors were particularly aggressive in conducting these cyber operations, representing over half of all such reported incidents.

Although the information systems category remained the most targeted, sensors technology, particularly radar and sonar, experienced the most dramatic increase rising from fourth place in last year’s hierarchy of targeted technology to second in FY09. This increase was likely attributed to sensors technology as it relates to marine systems and programs. In particular, foreign entities targeted technologies identifiable with sonar buoys, autonomous underwater vehicles, and sensors for the Littoral Combat Ship program.

As DSS forecast in FY08, cleared industry reporting during this period indicated that foreign entities, primarily consisting of traditional rivals, emerging adversaries, and regional allies, continued to target the vast spectrum of cleared industry information and technologies for both commercial and military applications.

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