The report, which represents the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community, describes a wide range of sectors that have been the focus of hacking over the past five years, including energy, finance, information technology, aerospace and automotives, according to the individuals familiar with the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified document. The assessment does not quantify the financial impact of the espionage, but outside experts have estimated it in the tens of billions of dollars.
Cyber-espionage, which was once viewed as a concern mainly by U.S. intelligence and the military, is increasingly seen as a direct threat to the nation’s economic interests.
In a sign of such concerns, the Obama administration is seeking ways to counter the online theft of trade secrets, according to officials. Analysts have said that the administration’s options include formal protests, the expulsion of diplomatic personnel, the imposition of travel and visa restrictions, and complaints to the World Trade Organization.
Cyber-espionage is “just so widespread that it’s known to be a national issue at this point,” said one administration official, who like other current and former officials interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.