Targeting U.S. Technologies

Executive Summary

Each region covered in this volume is significantly diverse. Thus, even as the Defense Security Service (DSS) categorizes its observations based on the geographical area the contact initiated from, each region includes countries that are large or small, advanced or developing in economy, rising or static in regional and world impact, and active or inactive in collecting tendencies. Each region contains aspiring regional powers, if not world-level players, in various categories of achievement. And some of the most active collectors within particular regions consider themselves to be sworn enemies of each other. Each of these factors can serve as a spur to collection efforts aimed at U.S. technology, and can complicate efforts to understand the motivations behind those efforts.

The number of suspicious contact reports (SCRs) resulting from foreign attempts to obtain illegal or unauthorized access to sensitive or classified information and technology resident in the U.S. cleared industrial base more than doubled from fiscal year 2009 (FY09) to FY10. The large scope and diversity of collection efforts targeting U.S. technologies meant that foreign entities simultaneously directed considerable efforts at many technologies using variations of methods and collectors.

Figure 1

However, there were some patterns and consistencies within the data. Analysis by DSS of these SCRs shows both continuities with and changes from previous years’ reporting. Overall, the majority of collection attempts in FY10 originated from the East Asia and the Pacific region; commercial entities were the most active collector affiliation category for the second year in a row; targeting of information systems (IS) technology more than doubled from FY09; and collectors continued to most commonly use requests for information (RFIs) to elicit information from cleared contractors.

Even as total SCRs from industry more than doubled from FY09 to FY10, the East Asian and Pacific region accounted for an even larger percentage of the total in FY10, increasing from 36 percent to 43 percent. East Asia and the Pacific accounted for as much of the total as the next three regions combined. Despite the dramatic increase in the number of reported cases attributed to the second most active region, the Near East, its share of the total actually declined slightly, due to the even greater increase in incidents attributable to East Asia and the Pacific.

As with the East Asia and the Pacific and Near East regions, Europe and Eurasia’s reported collection attempts more than doubled from last year, causing it to displace South and Central Asia as the third most active collector region. Together, East Asia and the Pacific, the Near East, and Europe and Eurasia accounted for over three-quarters of the world-wide total reported collection attempts against the U.S. cleared industrial base.

Nonetheless, South and Central Asia remained an active collecting region. It registered a 50 percent increase in reported attempts over the last year, although its share of the total reports decreased.

While commercial entities maintained their place as the most active collectors, at 35 percent of the total, that marked a decrease in share from almost half of the total in FY09, and those identified as government collectors fell to 11 percent. The other three categories—unknown, government affiliated, and individual—all correspondingly increased their shares. The commercial collector affiliation retained its primacy in all regions, but only in South and Central Asia did it do so unchallenged.

Figure 2

As in previous years, the RFI remained the most common method of operation (MO), accounting for almost half of all reported attempts, more than doubling the next closest MO, suspicious network activity. Despite the dramatic lead, the percentage of SCRs reporting RFIs decreased significantly since FY09. In East Asia and the Pacific and Europe and Eurasia, (SNA) continued to increase significantly both in numbers of reports and in percentage of the total.

Figure 3

IS remained the most sought after technology category. Lasers, optics, and sensors, which had surged in the statistics as a collection target in FY09, settled in at second place in FY10, with aeronautics systems and electronics technologies rounding out the usual top four categories. The regions spread their collection efforts over a wider range of technologies in FY10, as represented by SCRs.

This volume includes a special focus area on autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) due to the FY10 reporting, which noted a rising interest among each of the regions.

Figure 4


  • East Asia and the Pacific remains by far the most active collecting region, making the most attempts at collecting U.S. information and technology by an increasingly wide range of methods. This region has a bold and aggressive agenda and conducts multifaceted, pervasive, and innovative collection efforts.
  • All regions use the collection entities and methodologies they consider most likely to yield the desired results. While all regions rely on commercial agents, the U.S. cleared industrial base finds itself confronted with government, government-affiliated, individual, and unidentified collectors, each of which provide collecting regions with advantages in particular contexts.
  • Collection MOs continue to span the range between the direct, immediate, and seemingly legitimate, such as RFIs; to the more indirect, more long-term, and more opaque, such as academic solicitation, seeking employment, and solicitation or marketing; to the often obscure SNA that seeks to penetrate U.S. industry networks.
  • Often, regions do not discriminate between desired technological information and available information; but rising technologies—as measured either by level of development reached by the technology or by level of interest demonstrated by regional or world rivals—continue to attract special attention, with AUVs of particular interest in FY10

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