China may not be threatening the United States militarily, but it is certainly engaging U.S. companies in a costly cyber war, FBI director James Comey told 60 Minutes on Sunday, and no major business is immune.
“There are two kinds of big companies in the U.S. … those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese, and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese,” Comey said.
Chinese state-run business are “extremely aggressive” in their tactics to obtain “information that’s useful to them so they don’t have to invent,” Comey said. Their main targets? Intellectual property, negotiation tactics, and almost anything else that would give them an advantage.
According to Comey, the amount of intellectual property stolen from U.S. companies by the Chinese is “impossible to count…billions.” This theft has led to jobs lost in U.S. steel, solar, and other industries because China companies have stolen information that allows them to manufacture their own goods using stolen methods instead of buying directly from U.S. companies.
China isn’t subtle about its efforts either. “I liken them a bit to a drunk burglar. They’re kickin’ in the front door, knocking over the vase, while they’re walking out with your television set,” Comey said.
In May, five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army were indicted for hacking U.S. companies, although this was the first federal cyber-crime case prosecuting state actors. Small cases like this probably will not be enough to deter hackers, though, which means the U.S. needs to build a more secure Internet to protect itself from these attacks.