US fans China flames as plans to protect intellectual property are announced

The US government has announced it will increase diplomatic pressure on countries thought to be behind cyber attacks and intellectual property theft on American organisations.

In an event discussing the policy, White House officials repeatedly cited the threat posed from China in language that intensifies the ongoing feud between the two superpowers. Most recently, a US security firm accused a military base in Shanghai of bombarding the States with cyber attacks, something China has strenuously denied, arguing that the US is in fact a major aggressor in attacks against China.

But Washington officials say they plan to work with like-minded governments to tackle offenders using trade restrictions and criminal prosecutions, in a bid to protect security infrastructure business innovation on home soil.

“A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said. “With a few keystrokes, a terminated or simply unhappy employee of a defence contractor can misappropriate designs, processes and formulas worth billions of dollars.”

Robert Hormats, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, added, “Our message is quite clear: The protection of intellectual property and trade secrets is critical to all intellectual property rights holders, whether they be from the United States or whether they be from Chinese companies or other companies around the world.”

"We have repeatedly raised our concerns about trade secret theft by any means at the highest levels with senior Chinese officials and we will continue to do so," said Hormats, who also identified Russia and India as countries active in stealing intellectual property.

In addition to planning a defence of its IP and digital infrastructure, the US is also thought to be on the offensive in the cyber sphere. Earlier this month, a legal review gave President Obama the license to launch pre-emptive digital attacks on groups and nations deemed an imminent cyber threat, while US arms dealers have been working closely with the Pentagon to bolster America's cyber weaponry.