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How the 2010 Attack on Google Changed the US Government’s Threat Perception of Economic Cyber Espionage

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Cyberspace and International Relations


In 2010 economic cyber-espionage emerged as a top national security threat for the US government. Analysis suggests that the government’s swift mobilization of resources to block the problem stems from a major event in January 2010: Google’s announcement that hackers in China had penetrated its computer systems. Following that incident, the government’s threat perception of economic cyber-espionage changed and led to new efforts to counter the problem. This argument is substantiated in two main steps. In step one, it is shown how the American government conceptualized the threat of economic cyber-espionage before and after the announcement. In step two, we trace how this perception-shift led to a series of countermeasures. During both steps, we adopt an analytical framework called threat politics, which maintains that influential actors in and around government play a crucial role in convincing key policymakers how to perceive and respond to threats.

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  1. 1.

    Cornell University Law School’s definition of “economic espionage” refers to the practice generally, not necessarily online or offline.

  2. 2.

    This chapter was written in October 2012.


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Correspondence to Oliver Read .

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© 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

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Read, O. (2014). How the 2010 Attack on Google Changed the US Government’s Threat Perception of Economic Cyber Espionage. In: Kremer, JF., Müller, B. (eds) Cyberspace and International Relations. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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