DOJ Forms Working Group to Combat China’s Corporate Espionage

Defense Contractors

With the indictment and arrest of a Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence officer for attempted theft of GE Aviation’s intellectual property still being discussed, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the formation of a new working group on China to combat the theft of intellectual property.

FBI Deputy Director, David Bowdich made the announcement while speaking of the indictment of a Chinese state-owned enterprise, a Taiwanese company, and three individuals for economic espionage in the theft of Idaho-based Micron Technologies’ intellectual property.

Bowdich noted the targeting of U.S. companies is both complex and vast. Indeed, he specifically noted, “Every type of business is at risk—big companies and small ones; those located in major cities, small towns, or even rural areas. And those looking to infiltrate companies or, in many cases, steal trade secrets are not what you expect when you think of traditional espionage actors. Often these individuals are insiders—employees working in the targeted company. They can be students or others in the larger academic community, conducting authorized research—but then sharing the results with others without approval. Networks of people are used to piece together, bit by bit, the various components of our sensitive processes, our proprietary data, and our state secrets.”

In his talk, he emphasized how company insiders were being suborned by Chinese intelligence and unscrupulous Chinese competitors. He noted that the “Chinese government isn’t pulling any punches.”

Integrating the Insider Threat Framework

The working group will bring to the table all the investigative resources available to the United States, using a broad set of tools and allies. Specifically cited were the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, and State. Furthermore, the working group will expect to work directly with the targeted U.S. companies which may have an insider threat needing addressing.

By now all Facility Security Officer’s have in place their insider threat program, and is integrating the Insider Threat Program Maturity Framework. FSO’s should reach out to their contracting officer and ensure the pipeline to receive information generated from this working group finds its way to their inbox so that the experiences, data and perspective can be factored at the tactical level by the FSO.

Bowdich, speaking on behalf of the FBI noted that nearly every field division (56) has an open economic espionage case involving China, that the FBI was working with state and local law enforcement, businesses and individuals. He concluding by pledging to work closely with U.S. academia and businesses to protect their intellectual property and the vitality of the U.S. economy.

Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).