Cyber theft hurts China too, says U.S. Secretary of Defense

The cybersecurity threat facing the U.S. isn’t going away and, oh by the way, is a threat to China as well, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Friday.

“Cyber threats are … probably as insidious and real a threat [as there is] to the United States, as well as China, by the way, and every nation,” Hagel said according to a Reuters report. Hagel talked to reporters while traveling to a security event in Singapore on Saturday where he will meet with Chinese representatives.

China has been fingered by many — including some in the U.S. government — as the source of recent cyber attacks on Defense Department contractors. In the most recent incident, the U.S. claims that Chinese hackers stole designs for key high-tech weapons designs including the Patriot missile, the FA-18 fighter jet; and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. China has repeatedly denied these charges. 

As GigaOM reported last week, paranoia around data security was fanned with the release of a new report (PDF) from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property which estimated that the theft of IP costs the U.S. economy $300 billion annually.

It would make sense that Hagel would want to shift focus to how both superpowers are at risk from cyber theft rather than publicly pointing the finger at China, which may be the largest foreign owner of U.S. government debt.. the largest holder of U.S. debt.

This story was updated at 2:47 p.m. PDT to show that China is not the biggest holder of U.S. debt, but may be the largest foreign holder of that debt. Some accounts have put Japan above China on that scale, however. In either case, China is a huge creditor.