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Pompeo Says China Is Responsible For Marriott Computer Hack, Espionage Is Growing

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says China is behind a massive attack into the Marriott Hotel chain, a hack that collected information on as many as 500 million guests. Here he is on "Fox & Friends" this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX & FRIENDS")

MIKE POMPEO: They're conducting espionage and influence operations here in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The latest one was the Marriott.

POMPEO: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Five hundred million guests there have been - have had their security breached.

POMPEO: They have committed cyberattacks across the world.

CORNISH: NPR's Greg Myre reports on how this fits into China's sweeping espionage efforts.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: The Marriott hack is seen as just one part of China's comprehensive effort to vacuum up as much raw American data as possible. Here's California's Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein speaking more broadly on Chinese spying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DIANNE FEINSTEIN: The Chinese government has deliberately and purposefully created a system of maximum information extraction.

MYRE: In the Marriott case, cyber intruders scooped up the names of guests along with their phone numbers, passport and credit card details. This could help China construct profiles on government, military and business leaders. Now, Russian hacking gets most of the attention, but many see China as the bigger threat. And it's not traditional spy versus spy, says Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation. Here's what he told the Senate committee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEAN CHENG: I think it is much more useful to think of China as employing whole of society, where it is not only military entities and intelligence entities but industrial, financial and corporate entities.

MYRE: Analysts and government officials say these Chinese efforts are sometimes legal. The Chinese invest in Silicon Valley startups to get access to new technology. They send some of their top scientists to American universities for advanced research.

JOHN DEMERS: No one begrudges a nation that generates the most innovative ideas and from them develops the best technology.

MYRE: That's John Demers of the Justice Department. But Demers and other U.S. officials say that in addition to legal activity, China often tries to steal cutting-edge military and medical technologies from U.S. firms.

DEMERS: The playbook is simple. Rob; replicate, and replace. Rob the American company of its intellectual property. Replicate that technology, and replace the American company in the Chinese market and one day in the global market.

MYRE: He says the Justice Department is currently prosecuting four espionage cases involving China. He declined to say how many more might be coming. Greg Myre, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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