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US warns space industry to be wary of foreign spying

Foreign intelligence entities employ a wide array of tactics to loot research and trade secrets from the American space industry, US counterintelligence agencies have warned.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) warned US space-faring companies of unspecified foreign entities that were using cyberattacks and other techniques to gain access to the US space industry.

According to the trifecta of agencies, one of the techniques involves investment through joint ventures and acquisitions to access valuable information in the space industry. The ultimate goal is to boost their own countries' space programs.

The move is the latest push by Washington to raise awareness about an issue that has long vexed counterintelligence officials and has become a higher priority as the US space industry spends billions of dollars developing new rockets and other technology.

The document warned companies to be on guard for facility visit requests and attempts to gather confidential information at conferences. It also said individual employees were at risk of recruitment efforts through offers of travel abroad or consultancy work and payment for proprietary information.

It urged companies to contact the FBI or AFOSI with any concerns of being targeted, as well as to track "peculiar incidents" and establish "insider threat" programs as part of vetting individuals in sensitive positions.

US authorities have for years said that Chinese hackers are targeting US space know-how, including having accessed computers at the NASA Goddard Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as numerous companies involved in aviation, space, and satellite technology.

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