Targeting U.S. Technologies


The technology base of the United States is under constant attack. This pervasive and enduring threat is like the weather: ever-present yet ever changing. Any perceived lull in attacks against our technology base is like the eye of a storm: if you wait five minutes, the aggressiveness and nature of the attack will change. However, unlike the weather, our foes are calculating, cunning, and manipulative.

The foreign entities’ motivations may vary from striving for the advantage on some future battlefield to simply stealing information and technology for economic gain. No matter the motivation, any loss of technology to an adversary or competitor degrades our nation’s strength both militarily and economically.

In fiscal year 2010 (FY10), the Defense Security Service (DSS) witnessed a stunning increase of over 140 percent in the number of suspicious contact reports (SCRs) determined to be of intelligence value. This growth occurred globally: all regions yielded more SCRs in FY10 than in FY09. The increase likely resulted not only from aggressive foreign collection targeting cleared industry, but also the diligence of cleared industry in identifying and reporting suspicious activity. For example, improved awareness about computer network operations likely accounted for the considerable increase in the number of SCRs reporting suspicious activity on cleared contractor networks.

Technology collection spanned the entire spectrum of categories on the Militarily Critical Technologies List. Industry reporting indicated that information systems (IS) received the most attention from foreign entities during FY10. Entities from five of the six geographic regions targeted IS technology more than any other sector; entities from Africa targeted IS technology equally with aeronautics and lasers, optics, and sensors (LO&S). This global tendency to target IS technology likely results from continued U.S. dominance in IS technology development, design, and integration. Also remaining consistent with previous years, LO&S and aeronautics were the next most commonly targeted technology sections.

Commercial entities remained the most common collectors in FY10 reporting: DSS attributed 35 percent of suspicious contacts to commercial entities, down from 49 percent in FY09. However, the affiliation of the entity often provided no clear indication of the end user. Commercial entities regularly target technology based on government-tendered requirements, but some commercial entities target technology to gain an advantage over competitor companies rather than in response to a specific requirement identified by their government.

The unknown entities category constitutes a growing category of interest, up from 17 percent of the total in FY09 to 26 percent of a larger total in FY10. The increase in computer network operations targeting cleared industry and the improvement by collecting entities of their ability to conceal their identities when contacting cleared contractors likely caused this growth.

Entities targeting U.S. technologies used requests for information most commonly, accounting for nearly half of the reported suspicious incidents. Computer network operations, categorized as suspicious network activity, had the greatest increase in number of reports. This likely reflects both persistent cyber collection directed at cleared industry and improved network monitoring by cleared industry.

Academic solicitation enjoyed significant favor among entities from the East Asia and the Pacific and Near East regions. Academic solicitation—using students, professors, scientists, and researchers as collectors—was a new category in FY10; previously, DSS had broken academic solicitation between the old categories of seeking employment, direct request, and foreign travel, depending on the situation. Globally, academic solicitation accounted for six percent of all suspicious contacts; however, it constituted 18 percent of suspicious contacts DSS attributed to the Near East. This MO will likely continue to gain popularity in regions lacking the capacity for sophisticated computer network operations or experience difficulty in acquiring technology due to export controls or economic sanctions.

FY10 witnessed a persistent stream of collection attempts targeting U.S. technologies. Entities from all regions of the globe sought U.S. technologies to obtain an advantage against regional adversaries, replicate U.S. capabilities, develop countermeasures to U.S. systems, or simply profit commercially. Both friends and foes targeted U.S. technologies. Collectors’ leading targets were IS, LO&S, and aeronautic systems technologies, but FY10 reporting suggests that foreign entities targeted an even broader spectrum of technologies resident in cleared industry than last year.

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