It's not like Chinese or Russian spies are looking for your embarrassing purchases or the hours you spend watching cat videos; for them it's all about economics. "American intelligence agencies, in an unusually blunt public criticism of China and Russia, reported to Congress Thursday that those two foreign governments steal sensitive American technology over the Internet," reports The New York Times. More specifically, "[I]ntelligence agents are also conducting extensive spying to collect U.S. economic data and technology ... Economic cyber espionage is targeting key components of the U.S. economy: information technology, military technology, and clean energy and medical technology," notes the Wall Street Journal. Sure it's not as tech-sexy as Google's conflicts with China or sexy-sexy as the media's crush on Russian spy (and alleged plagiarist) Anna Chapman's ordeals, but it's troublesome nonetheless. Adds The Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. government doesn't have calculations of the economic losses due to cyber economic espionage. A senior U.S. intelligence official cited estimates of $50 billion in losses in 2009 due to lost intellectual property and counterfeiting, through all means of theft, including cyber break-ins. Prosecutions of Chinese spying in recent years have set losses to an individual U.S. company at as much as $600 million.
The problem, apparently, is that the hacking is condoned. "The governments in Beijing and Moscow, and their intelligence services, contract with independent hackers to expand their capabilities and cloak responsibility for the computer intrusions," the report said. While it easy to point fingers and get angry, apparently not all hacking is of the bad-guy variety. "Even friendly nations spy on the United States via computers," adds The Times.