Trade, Mercantilism and Cybersecurity — Better U.S. Legislation & Cooperation?

It’s been reported recently by the National Office of Counterintelligence that agencies and companies from Russia and China are conducting economic espionage and stealing U.S. corporate secrets. We’ve heard this story before.
Trade secrets, technology and intellectual property are being stolen from corporate and government computer systems at an increasing rate. This often state-sponsored activity is a threat to the U.S. economy and national security.
U.S. companies need to realize that foreign governments have a different relationship with their domestic firms than the U.S. government has to American firms. Foreign governments view their firms as full partners in state-corporate enterprises that compete aggressively in the global trading system.
How should the U.S. respond to this ever-growing set of inter-related problems of corporate espionage, cybersecurity, and global competition?
Four suggestions.
One, U.S. counterintelligence should not focus only on traditional military and diplomatic assets. It should focus on protecting domestic infrastructure including corporate networks. Two, establish a national counter-cyber center that promotes better government-business cooperation on cybersecurity. Three, more forcefully prosecute foreign actors under the Economic Espionage Act and other legislation. Four, adopt new legislation that specifically criminalizes extraterritorial cyber activity that impacts the security of U.S. corporate networks.
This would be a serious beginning. But don’t hold your breath.

About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Public Policy).
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