"They are stealing everything that isn't bolted down, and it's getting exponentially worse," said Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who is chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
China has made industrial espionage an integral part of its economic policy, stealing company secrets to help it leapfrog over U.S. and other foreign competitors to further its goal of becoming the world's largest economy, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a report released last month.
"What has been happening over the course of the last five years is that China -- let's call it for what it is -- has been hacking its way into every corporation it can find listed in Dun & Bradstreet," said Richard Clarke, former special adviser on cybersecurity to U.S. President George W. Bush, at an October conference on network security. "Every corporation in the U.S., every corporation in Asia, every corporation in Germany. And using a vacuum cleaner to suck data out in terabytes and petabytes. I don't think you can overstate the damage to this country that has already been done."
Experts estimate that U.S. losses from economic espionage in the last year alone - to China, Russia, and other IP hungry countries - may total as much as $500 billion.
High tech industries - like pharmaceuticals and biotechnology - appear to be among the most frequent targets.