The past five years have seen a mammoth international effort to spy on the computer systems of US businesses and other institutions, an intelligence report finds—and China is by far the biggest threat. The goal: to gather economic information to benefit the spying countries, the Washington Post reports. Targeted industries range from financial to auto to information technology, according to the widely accepted National Intelligence Estimate. Military-tied companies like Lockheed Martin are reportedly also a frequent target.
The damage so far could range from $25 billion to $100 billion, or up to 0.5% of GDP, experts say. Cyberspying is "just so widespread that it’s known to be a national issue at this point," says an Obama administration official. Russia, Israel, and France have also delved into electronic espionage, but to a far lesser extent than Beijing, according to the report. Chinese officials deny such hacking. The White House is taking action on the issue after some say it's been put aside for too long. The administration could log official protests, send home Chinese diplomats, or limit Chinese visa rights, the Post notes. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are among several newspapers to cite recent hacking, the Daily Intelligencer notes. (Read more cyberspying stories.)