Cyber Risk Wednesday: Rethinking Commercial Espionage

July 29, 2015 - 4:00 pm

1030 15th Street Northwest, 12th Floor West Tower Elevator
Washington, DC
Cyber Risk Wednesday: Rethinking Commercial Espionage

Dmitri Alperovitch
Cofounder and CTO
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Cyber Statecraft Initiative, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security
Atlantic Council

Stewart Baker
Steptoe & Johnson, LLP

Harvey Rishikof
Advisory Committee for the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security

Melanie Teplinsky
Adjunct Professor
American University Washington College of Law

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Join the Atlantic Council's Cyber Statecraft Initiative on July 29 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for a discussion on new ideas on commercial cyber espionage and intellectual property theft.

The United States is nearly alone in professing that states should not spy for the private sector's commercial benefit. As Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.), former Director of National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, puts it: "I've conducted espionage. I went after state secrets and I actually think we're pretty good at it. Where I object is where you have state power being used against private enterprise for commercial purposes." Instead, the United States has strongly promoted innovation and intellectual property, publicly berating or punishing countries that engage in the systematic theft of technology, trade secrets, and proprietary information.

However, as indictments and advances in cyber defense have proven insufficient to secure commercial secrets, it is now time to consider alternative policy options to defend the private sector. Perhaps to save the principles behind banning commercial espionage, we must first embrace it. Could the United States reach better economic and national security outcomes if it joined its adversaries in spying for profit? Could like-minded nations create bilateral no-spy agreements, slowly expanding these into a global institution? Or would experimenting with economic espionage erode the West's credibility and moral high-ground, leaving us worse off than before?

The panelists will debate whether the United States should continue to abstain from economic espionage, or whether these challenges demand innovative, even radical solutions.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at @AtlanticCouncil using #ACCyber.

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