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U.S. accuses China, Russia of data theft

WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence officials accused China and Russia yesterday of systematically stealing American high-tech data for their own national economic gain.

It was the most forceful and detailed public airing of U.S. allegations after years of private complaints. U.S. officials and cybersecurity experts said the United States must openly confront China and Russia to combat cyberattacks that are on the rise and pose a "persistent threat to U.S. economic security." But experts said solving the problem won't be easy.

In a report released yesterday, U.S. intelligence agencies said "the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive U.S. economic information and technologies."

Speaking at a forum at the National Press Club, Robert Bryant, the national counterintelligence executive, said the United States is finally making the charges public because China and Russia are stealing sensitive U.S. technology data.

"We want to basically point out what the issue is. We want to be worried and we want to be careful, but we also want there to be an awareness and, frankly, drive that toward solutions where we work together to bring this under control," he said.

The report is part of an increased effort by U.S. officials to highlight the risks of cyberattacks in a growing high-tech society. People, businesses and governments are storing an increasing amount of valuable and sensitive information online or accessing data through mobile devices that may not be as secure as some computers.

Yesterday's report is a clarion call, cybersecurity experts said. "We should have done this years ago," said James Lewis, cybersecurity expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We've pretended it hasn't been happening, but that's not the case. I hope this is the first in a series of documents that lays out the huge problem the U.S. is facing."

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